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Ford jumps 8%, as strong demand for its popular trucks in North America boosts earnings

Key Points
  • The Detroit automaker beats on the top and bottom lines.
  • The company credits its better-than-expected performance in North America to strong truck and sport utility vehicle sales, particularly its F-Series and Ranger pickups.
  • Outside North America, the company has an operating loss of $196 million, which is an improvement of $632 million from the prior quarter.
The Ford Motor Co. Mustang Shelby GT500 vehicle is displayed during the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan,.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ford delivered stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings, as demand for its popular pickups and SUVs in North America helped boost losses in China and South America.

Ford's stock jumped by more than 8% in extended trading Thursday.

Here's how the company did compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted earnings per share: 44 cents vs. a forecast of 27 cents per share
  • Automotive segment revenue: $37.24 billion vs. a forecast of $37.08 billion

The company's total revenue was $40.34 billion during the quarter, lower than its $41.96 billion in revenue during the same quarter last year.

On an unadjusted basis, Ford's profit slid 34% from the year earlier. It earned $1.15 billion, or 29 cents a share, down from $1.74 billion, or 43 cents a share, during the same quarter last year.

VIDEO0:0000:00
Ford CFO Bob Shanks breaks down first-quarter earnings

"We have a lot of work to do. A lot of redesign of the business. We're still somewhat concerned about the external environment," outgoing Ford CFO Bob Shanks told CNBC's "Closing Bell. "

Ford shares were up more than 22% year-to-date through Wednesday but still down by about 15% over the past 12 months.

The company, which released earnings after the markets closed Thursday, credited its better-than-expected performance in North America to strong truck and sport utility vehicle sales there, particularly its F-Series and Ranger pickups.

Ford has redesigned some of its most popular vehicles, set to launch later this year or next, including updates of its Ranger and Super Duty pickups, the Explorer and Escape SUVs, as well as the all-new Aviator and all-new Corsair from Lincoln. The automaker will have replaced 75% of its U.S. lineup by the end of next year, the company said.

"The ship is starting to turn after a lot of work on the fitness of the business, rethinking the product portfolio, working on a number of alliances," said Shanks.

The Detroit automaker said its U.S. North American operating profits were $2.2 billion. Ford reported operating losses only in South America and China. They lost $158 million and $128 million, respectively. Ford also reported operating profits in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and Europe.

Outside North America, the company had an operating loss of $196 million, which was an improvement of $632 million from the prior quarter.

"This quarter was a really good start for the year," Shanks said in a statement announcing the results. "We expect first quarter EBIT to be the strongest of the year due to seasonal factors and major product launches ahead. It does, however, put us on track to deliver better company results in 2019 than last year."

Ford's North American profit margin was 8.7%. The full company margin was 6.1%.

The quarterly numbers come amid Ford's $11 billion restructuring plan, with an aim to slash costs by $14 billion over the next five years. The plan involves focusing on Ford's historically strongest segments such as trucks, utility vehicles and muscle cars, while scaling back international operations, investing in new technologies, and featuring more profitable vehicles.

Ford announced Wednesday it has invested $500 million in electric-truck maker Rivian to build a battery-powered electric vehicle. Shanks said the partnership is a "win win" for both companies.

"Working with a fantastic start-up like this that is looking at electrification and that part of the business with fresh eyes, we're going to learn a lot from it," said Shanks.

The stock closed at $9.41 a share on Thursday.

On the company's earnings call CEO Jim Hackett thanked Bob Shanks for his work, as he is leaving the company. Shanks will be replaced by Tim Stone, who served 20 years at Amazon and is the former CFO of Snap.