By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) reported first-quarter net income that more than doubled thanks to robust deliveries of pickup trucks in North America and a profit rebound in Europe, but cautioned that results in the second half of the year would likely not be as strong.
The automaker's net income of $2.45 billion, or 61 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter through March 31, was up 113 percent from $1.3 billion, or 29 cents per diluted share, a year earlier.
It reported record operating margins globally and in North America, and enjoyed its most profitable quarter in Europe since 2008.
During a conference call with analysts, Chief Executive Mark Fields said the automaker would be competitive with longer-range electric vehicles, and said Ford was developing such a vehicle, but he did not say when it would be introduced.
In December, Fields said Ford would spend $4.5 billion to expand its plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles by 2020.
Developing a longer-range vehicle is part of that effort, said Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks.
Excluding one-time items, Ford's earnings per share of 68 cents easily beat Wall Street expectations of 48 cents a share.
Shanks said on Thursday the second half of the year is not expected to generate as much profit as the first half. This was largely due to downtime for production plants in Europe and North America for normal summer and end-of-year shutdowns.
Shanks said the company maintained its forecast for a North American profit margin for 2016 of 9.5 percent or better, after reporting a 10.2 percent margin last year.
Ford also kept its full-year forecast for pretax profit that is expected to meet or exceed last year's record $10.8 billion.
The company's shares were up 3.9 percent at $14.20 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, against a wider market that was little changed. GM shares were up nearly 1 percent.
Fields said the company "could" curtail production of sedans as those traditional car models were not selling as well as SUVs and trucks. But he said he wanted Ford to have a "full family" of vehicles in case of changes in consumer demand and if fuel prices rise from their current low levels.
In North America, Ford had a record operating margin of 12.9 percent. This compares with rival General Motors Co (GM.N)'s first-quarter operating profit margin of 8.7 percent, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N)'s 7.2 percent in North America.
However, GM included in its calculations for operating margin an expense for attribution of union workers in the United States, which Ford did not. The exclusion of that cost would raise GM's North American margin to 9.5 percent.
Ford beat GM in both revenue and profit in the quarter, mainly because of stronger results in North America and Europe.
Ford's quarterly revenue of $37.7 billion edged past GM’s $37.3 billion. GM last week reported a first-quarter net income of $2 billion, while Ford's net income was $2.5 billion.
Ford reported $3.08 billion in pretax profit for North America, outpacing GM’s $2.3 billion for the quarter. In Europe, Ford earned a pretax quarterly profit of $434 million, while GM broke even.
The company's global operating margin was 9.8 percent, while global pretax profit was a record $3.8 billion in the quarter.
Ford more than doubled profit in the Asia-Pacific region to $220 million, from $105 million a year ago. But it lost money outside of its China joint ventures.
The company's equity income from its joint ventures in China was $443 million, up from $360 million, for a quarterly operating profit margin of 16.4 percent.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)