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Ford's First-Quarter Revenue, Demand Were Up: Execs

Ford Motor's revenues rose in the first quarter thanks to strong U.S. demand for cars and trucks, Ford's Americas President Mark Fields said Tuesday.

Ford F Series
Ford F Series

Fields didn't provide revenue numbers, which are expected to be released later this month. But it was more good news for the automaker, which is expected to report its fourth consecutive quarterly profit in the first quarter.

Ford has benefited from Toyota's recall woes as well as consumer goodwill because it didn't take federal bailout money, as General Motors and Chrysler did.

Ford's U.S. sales jumped 37 percent in the first three months of this year. Only Subaru and Volkswagen had higher gains. Ford's year-over-year U.S. market share gain for the quarter, at 2.7 percentage points, was the largest gain since 1977, when results were skewed by a strike.

"I did some research. 'Saturday Night Fever' was just being launched in theaters, along with 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' So it's been a long time," Fields told reporters at an industry breakfast in Detroit.

Too Early to Declare Victory: Bill Ford

Though the first quarter's auto sales were an improvement for the auto industry, Executive Chairman Bill Ford told CNBC that it's still too early to declare victory in the sector.

He pointed to the fact that on a historical scale, sales are still pretty low, and said Ford needs to stay conservative in its production levels until demand forces them to be lifted.

"We've all seen the other side of that equation, where all the auto producers overproduced and then had huge incentives to try and shove them into the marketplace," he said. "That's a game we don't want to play anymore."

Ford said he is "very glad" the automaker did not elicit money from the government, as it gave the company an opportunity to run its business as it saw fit. He said Ford will continue to push its development of green vehicles — by working on electric cars, hybrids and models that run on biofuels — and said obtaining some certainty in gas prices would help its eco-friendly push.

"We still have debt to repay, and we're working very hard to do that, but I love our position and I wouldn't trade with anybody," he said.

The Detroit automaker saw market share increases across its Ford brand in the first quarter, according to George Pipas, Ford's top U.S. sales analyst. The F-Series truck now holds 38.5 percent of the U.S. market, up from 33.2 percent in the first quarter last year. Sales of the Ford Fusion midsize sedan jumped 81 percent in the quarter.

Ford's Mercury and Lincoln brands held on to their market share, but didn't see big increases. Pipas said that was partly the result of Ford's decision to put most of its marketing resources behind the Ford brand during the economic downturn.

"If we were going to fix the business, we had to fix the Ford brand, because that's where we had the best chance of getting a return," he said. "Now it's up to us to make progress, now that we're not thinking about where our next meal is going to come from."

Ford shares were slightly higher Tuesday.

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