Ford 1Q Tops Estimates on Record North America

Ford Motor (NYSE:F) said its first-quarter profit climbed 15%, as the automaker’s North American division posted a record quarter.

Net income overall was $1.61 billion, or 40 cents a share, compared with $1.4 billion, or 35 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings to exclude one-time items checked in at $2.1 billion, or 41 cents a share, beating Wall Street estimates of 37 cents a share.

Automotive revenue rose 9% to $33.9 billion, topping expectations for $33.6 billion. Overall revenue rose to $35.8 billion.

The company earned a pretax profit of $2.44 billion in North America, giving Ford its best quarterly income in the region since it began reporting the results in 2000.

The redesigned Fusion and Focus sedans have bolstered Ford’s lineup of cars, while the F-series pickup truck continues to record strong sales. Ford sold 168,843 pickups in the latest period, up 17.4% year-over-year.

According to Kelly Blue Book, Ford’s North American share rose to 16.2% in the first quarter. That reflects the company’s best market share since 2010, when it still made vehicles under the Mercury brand.

Operating margin in North America did fall slightly to 11% on cost increases.

Ford saw weaker sales in Europe amid continued economic turmoil. Its loss in the region widened to $462 million versus $149 million, while the company still expects to lose about $2 billion in Europe this year. Last year, Ford posted a $1.75 billion loss there.

However, the Dearborn, Michigan-based car maker surprised analysts by increasing European production over the next three months by 21,000 vehicles.

In South America, trade restrictions imposed by Brazil and Argentina helped drive Ford’s pretax loss to $218 million.

Its operations in Asia edged into the black with a profit of $6 million, up from a $95 million loss last year, as Ford’s heavy spending in the region to build plants and increase production weighed on the bottom line.

“We continue to expect 2013 to be another strong year, as we go further in strengthening our global product lineup and improving the competitiveness of our operations,” CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement.

Shares of Ford were up 13 cents at $13.49 shortly after Wednesday’s opening bell.