GM's introduction of crucial big pickups "best launch ever" -CEO

WARREN, Mich., June 26 (Reuters) - General Motors Co's launch of its redesigned full-size pickup trucks, which are critical to boosting profits, has been probably the best ever at the U.S. automaker so far, Chief Executive Dan Akerson said on Wednesday.

Pulling off a smooth introduction for the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra big trucks is crucial, as they generate more than $12,000 per vehicle in profits. It is the most important vehicle introduction for the Detroit automaker since its bankruptcy and $50 billion U.S. taxpayer-funded bailout in 2009.

The trucks are also a linchpin in GM's ongoing battle with No. 2 U.S. carmaker Ford Motor Co, whose F-150 truck is the auto industry's top-selling vehicle.

GM's current big trucks and related SUVs account for about 60 percent of GM's global profit, according to analysts. Citi has estimated the new models could bring the automaker more than $1 billion in additional operating earnings in 2013 and 2014.

"We're in the midst of a huge truck launch right now," Akerson told reporters at the company's technical center in suburban Detroit. "We've produced tens of thousands of these new trucks. Initial cut is it's probably our best launch ever.

"I won't tell you that we're going to be flawless, but that's what we're going to strive for," he added.

Akerson was at the technical center in Warren, Michigan, to celebrate GM's performance in last week's J.D. Power and Associates initial quality study, when the No. 1 U.S. automaker led the industry with eight vehicles garnering top honors in their segments.