Ford Motor Co. on Thursday posted a first-quarter net loss of $282 million, a vast improvement over the $1.4 billion it lost in the first quarter of 2006.
It was Ford's seventh consecutive quarterly loss, but the automaker said the smaller deficit reflected its restructuring efforts as it tries to cut costs in the face of withering competition from Asian automakers.
The loss of 15 cents per share for the January-March period compared with 76 cents per share in the same period a year ago.
The company also announced record profits for its Premiere Automotive Group, its European high-end and luxury brands — Jaquar, Land Rover and Volvo. (PAG also sold off its Aston Martin brand last month.)
Ford Europe, Ford South America and Mazda all profitable.
Ford Motor Credit also showed a pre-tax profit of $294 million.
Revenue rose to $43 billion from $40.8 billion a year ago.
Excluding one-time items, primarily restructuring costs, Ford would have lost $171 million dollars (or nine cents a share), which is better than Wall Street analysts had forecast. Sixteen analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected a loss of 60 cents per share. Those estimates typically exclude special items.
"We are making progress on executing the four priorities of our plan - restructuring the company, accelerating product development, funding our plan and working effectively as one team," Alan Mulally, Ford's chief executive, said in a statement.
"Our first quarter results came in somewhat stronger than expected, but there are many uncertainties going forward."
Ford is trying to fend off Toyota Motor Corp. to keep the title of the nation's No. 2 automaker. Ford lost $12.7 billion last year and is in the midst of slashing thousands of jobs, closing plants and rolling out new products in an effort to return to profitability.
Its U.S. new vehicle sales were down more than 13 percent for the quarter, due in part to its effort to reduce low-profit sales to rental car companies. Ford said that decline held down its results.
But the company said its improved revenue was a result of a better mix of cars and trucks, as well as favorable currency exchange.
In January, Mulally said the restructuring plan, which includes a 29-percent reduction of its total North American work force by 2008, was ahead of schedule.
The company lost $5.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006 due to slumping sales and huge restructuring costs. It was the worst final-quarter loss in Ford's history and its second-worst quarterly performance. Ford posted a $12.7 billion net loss for all of 2006.
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