DEARBORN (AP) — Ford Motor Co.’s first-quarter profit rose 15 percent to a $1.6 billion thanks to record earnings in North America and strong sales in China. The automaker lost money again in Europe, although it sees some hints of improvement there.
Ford earned 40 cents per share, up from 35 cents in the same quarter a year ago. Without one-time charges, including restructuring costs in Europe, Ford would have earned 41 cents. That beat Wall Street’s forecast of 37 cents, according to analysts polled by FactSet.
“It’s a very good start to the year for us,” Ford’s Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said Wednesday.
Ford earned $2.4 billion in North America, the highest quarterly total since the company began reporting results regionally in 2000.
The Fusion midsize sedan and Escape SUV — newly redesigned for the 2013 model year — were powerhouses in the quarter. U.S. sales of both vehicles rose 25 percent. With its sharp styling and unique, hexagonal grille, the Fusion gained share from perennial midsize leaders like the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. Ford sold 80,558 Fusions in the quarter. The angular Escape SUV was right behind with nearly 73,000 in sales, drawing buyers from older models like the Honda CR-V with promises of better fuel economy and towing capacity.
Ford’s F-Series trucks, the best-selling vehicles in the U.S., are getting a boost from an improvement in home building and other construction. F-Series sales rose 17 percent in the first quarter, or nearly three times the average sales increase for the industry, according to Autodata Corp.
U.S. buyers paid an average $32,784 for a Ford in the first quarter, or around $1,000 more than the same period a year ago, according to Internet buying site TrueCar.com.
Investors’ reaction was muted. Ford’s shares slipped 3 cents to $13.33. They had gained nearly 5 percent in the three days before the earnings. The shares have traded in a 52-week range of $8.82 to $14.30.