Ford reports loss as sales slide

Carmaker Ford has announced a net loss of $1.4bn (£0.96bn) for the first three months of this year as sales were hit hard during the severe recession.

This compares with the profit of $70m that the company made in the same period last year.

Despite the loss, the results were much better than analysts had expected.

Carmakers across the world have been struggling to cope with a massive slump in demand for cars as consumers hold back on making expensive purchases.

Ford shares soared by 20% in pre-market trading, reflecting how well the company has performed in the eyes of investors.

Cost cutting

Indeed the first quarter results represent a significant improvement over its performance in the final quarter of last year.

During those three months, Ford lost $5.9bn. Over the whole of 2008, the carmaker lost a record $14.6bn.

"Our results in the first quarter reflected the extremely difficult business environment and weak demand for autos around the world," said Ford boss Alan Mulally.

The carmaker has been slashing costs in an attempt to offset the slump in sales, and cut its debt obligations by $10.1bn during the quarter.

"Ford made strong progress on our transformation plan by gaining share with new products, reducing outstanding debt, lowering our structural costs and reaching new agreements with the United Auto Workers [union]," Mr Mulally added.

Ford Europe's market share rose to 9.4%, its highest level in nearly ten years, with the Ford Fiesta becoming the continent's best selling car in March, the carmaker said.

The overall quarterly loss for the European arm of the company was $550m, compared with a profit of $737m a year ago. Revenue was $6bn, down from $10.2bn.

Overall revenue fell to $24.8bn from $39.2bn in the same period last year.

Government loans

Two of biggest rivals, General Motors and Chrysler, have taken billions of dollars in US government aid and still face bankruptcy.

As yet, Ford has not taken any money from the government.

The latest results show that the company has $21.3bn in cash and reiterate that, "based on current planning assumptions, it does not expect to seek a bridge loan from the US government".

The carmaker also asserted that it would "remain on track to meet or beat its financial targets."

These include at least breaking even in 2011, excluding special items.