Ford sales in recovering Europe market rose 12.5 percent in first quarter

Ford's European business saw stronger sales in the first quarter as falling unemployment and cheaper energy put more money in car buyers' pockets.

Ford Motor Co. sold 335,100 vehicles in its 20 traditional European markets, a 12.5 percent increase over the same quarter a year ago.

Ford of Europe's vice president of sales, Peter Fleet, says the increase is due mostly to a recovering economy, not low interest rates or economic stimulus programs. "Customers clearly have more money to spend," Fleet said in a conference call Tuesday with journalists.

Fleet cited a drop in unemployment to 9.8 percent in the 28-country EU and cheaper fuel as fundamental factors. He said quality of sales rose as well as quantity, with a higher percentage going to retail customers instead of rental firms.