But the automaker cautioned its fourth quarter results would be "significantly lower," in part due to a $700 million charge related to buying back $2.1 billion in shares from the US government.
"The results of the third quarter clearly point to the amount of progress that GM has made," GM chief executive officer Dan Akerson said.
"We know we have much more work to do," Akerson added. "We still need to fix Europe. We continue to be vigilant in reducing cost in the enterprise and we've just started doing a better job in marketing our brands to consumers."
But GM's efforts to cut costs, increase global market share and focus on "a clear, simple vision to design and sell the world's best vehicles" is paying dividends, he said.
The quarter's solid growth equates to earnings of $1.20 a share and brings GM's profits attributed to common shareholders to 4.2 billion for the first nine months of the year.
After three straight quarters in the black, GM said it anticipate posting a profit for 2010.
"Although we're a different company, it's worth noting that last time GM reported a profitable year was 1994," Akerson said in a conference call.
GM emerged from a government-financed restructuring under bankruptcy protection on July 10, 2009 and posted a $4.4 billion loss for the remainder of that year.
The automaker said last week it hopes to raise $13 billion in an initial public stock (IPO) offering sometime this month.
One of the largest in US history, the IPO will consist of 365 million shares of common stock, with the estimated price range for the offering of common stock at $26 to $29 per share.
GM said its global market share slipped to 11.5 per cent from 11.6 per cent in the second quarter, primarily due to planned reductions in low-margin fleet sales.
Total sales rose to 6.2 million vehicles for the first nine months of the year from 5.5 million for the same period of 2009.
"GM sales this year show advancement from the company due to a stronger product lineup while improved earnings demonstrate the progress made through lower manufacturing costs and higher product margins," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with TrueCar.com.
"There is still room for improvement as transaction prices remained flat and fleet sales have risen slightly."
Once the world's largest corporation, General Motors sold more vehicles than any other automaker from 1931 through 2007, after which it lost the crown to Japan's Toyota.
Hit by falling sales amid a steep US recession, GM was forced into a government-backed bankruptcy reorganization on June 1, 2009. It emerged a little more than a month later with a debt pile of $48.4 billion.
The automaker transferred its main assets to a new government-supported car company under a plan financed by the administration of President Barack Obama and the Canadian government.
The US government owns a 60.8 percent stake in General Motors Company and the Canadian and Ontario governments have an 11.7 per cent holding.
The United Auto Workers union's retiree health care trust fund owns 17.5 per cent.
The White House said last week it is confident that GM will pay back the entire $50 billion of public money invested in the company to bail it out.
GM said Wednesday that it generated $34.1 billion in revenues in the third quarter and posted net cash flow from operating activities of $2.6 billion.
GM's once-troubled North American unit had EBIT of $2.1 billion in the third quarter, up from $1.6 billion in the second quarter.
GM Europe posted a $600 million loss before interest and taxes, down from a $200 million loss in the second quarter.
GM International Operations posted EBIT of $600 million, down from $700 million in the second quarter.