DETROIT — A big loss in Europe dragged down General Motors' second-quarter profit.

The automaker's net income from April through June fell 41 percent to $1.5 billion, $1 billion less than the same quarter a year earlier, GM said on Thursday.

A $361 million loss in Europe, coupled with $19 million of red ink in South America, pulled down strong performances in North America and Asia. In last year's second quarter, GM made $102 million in Europe before taxes.

European nations are struggling to contain a debt crisis, weak economies and high unemployment, which have sapped car buying in the region.

Even North America, GM's profit center, showed weakness. Pretax profit fell almost 13 percent to about $2 billion. International operations, which include China, saw pretax earnings fall 3 percent to a $557 million.

Overall revenue slipped 5 percent to $37.6 billion.

The company's overall profit was better than Wall Street expected. GM earned 90 cents per share, compared with 75 cents forecast by analysts.

Shares rose 9 cents to $ 19.75 in early trading Thursday.

Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann wouldn't predict when GM would make money again in Europe, saying it was largely dependent on the broader regional economy.

"We don't know exactly how that's going to unfold," he said.

GM is restructuring in Europe and has an array of new vehicles coming out this year and next around the globe. Ammann said that's reason for optimism.

"That makes us feel good about the general prospects for the business going forward," he said.

Still, the company predicted that its third-quarter North American pretax profit is likely to be below second-quarter results.

GM's European sales, which include mainly the Opel and Vauxhall brands, fell 7 percent to 454,000 vehicles during the quarter as several countries went into recession and government debt problems scared away buyers. But Ammann said GM was able to keep its prices relatively steady as people paid more for new models, offsetting discounts on older models.

Earlier this month GM replaced its European CEO and added three outsiders to its management team there, including two from Volkswagen, the region's top automaker.

In North America, Ammann said he wasn't worried about the slip in pretax profits. During the quarter, the company shifted its salaried pension plan to an insurance company annuity, and that cut pension income by about $200 million. GM also cut truck production during the quarter as it readied for all-new models in 2013, and that affected income, Ammann said.