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​Ford's earnings hitch a ride on pickups, SUVs

DEARBORN, Mich. -Ford Motor's (F) net income more than doubled to $2.5 billion in the first quarter as strong sales of trucks and SUVs pushed North American revenue to record levels.

The company's pretax profit of $3.8 billion was an all-time record for any quarter. Pretax profits more than doubled in North America and Asia, while Europe recorded its best quarter since 2008.

"Essentially everything has improved," Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said. Shanks said Ford expects to meet or exceed its strong performance in 2015.

Worldwide sales rose 10 percent to 1.7 million. Demand for SUVs, trucks and commercial vans was insatiable in North America, offsetting a 29 percent decline in sales in Brazil and weaker sales in the Middle East and Africa.

Ford struggled in the first quarter of 2015 because it was still ramping up production of its newly redesigned F-150 pickup, which has long been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. This year, with normal inventory at dealerships, F-Series sales rose 5 percent in the U.S. Ford Explorer SUV sales rose 39 percent in the U.S. in the first quarter, while sales of the Transit commercial vans jumped 46 percent.

Ford's results trounced Wall Street's forecasts. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker earned 61 cents per share in the January-March period, up from 29 cents a year ago. Excluding one-time items, like buyout payments for workers in North America, Ford earned 68 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet forecast earnings of 47 cents per share.

Ford's revenue rose 11 percent to $37.7 billion. Analysts had forecast revenue of $35.59 billion. In premarket trading on Thursday morning, the shares were up 2.2 percent, or 31 cents, to $13.96.