Ford has reported a significant improvement in performance in its first quarter financial results. Ford's loss from continuing operations, excluding one-time items, was 9 cents per share, which was sharply lower than the average Wall Street forecast of a loss of around 60 cents per share (as tracked by Reuters).

The company, in the midst of restructuring and a turnaround plan for its loss-making North American operations, also reported a sizeable jump in revenues versus a year ago.

Ford reported a net loss of 15 cents per share, or US$282m, for the first quarter of 2007. This compares with a net loss of 76 cents per share, or US$1.4bn, in the first quarter of 2006.

Special items, which primarily reflected the impact of restructuring efforts, reduced pre-tax results by US$113m, or 6 cents per share, in the first quarter.

Ford's first-quarter revenue was US$43bn, up from US$40.8bn a year ago. The increase primarily reflected mix improvement and favourable currency exchange, partially offset by lower volume, Ford said.

"We are making progress on executing the four priorities of our plan -- restructuring the company, accelerating product development, funding our plan and working effectively as one team," said President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally. "I am pleased that the basics of our business are improving, but we still have a lot of work to do.

"Our first quarter results came in somewhat stronger than expected, but there are many uncertainties going forward. We remain focused on improving our quality, productivity and business performance," Mulally added.

On a pre-tax basis, worldwide automotive sector losses in the first quarter were US$225m. That compares with a pre-tax loss of $203 million during the same period a year ago.

Ford notched up another big loss in North America which it said reflected unfavourable volume and mix. Ford's North America Automotive operations reported a pre-tax loss of US$614m, compared with a pre-tax loss of US$442m a year ago. Revenue was US$18.2bn, down from US$19.8bn for the same period a year ago.

Europe's contribution was up again. Ford Europe's first-quarter pre-tax profit was US$219m compared with a pre-tax profit of US$65m during the same period in 2006. During the first quarter of 2007, Ford Europe's revenue was US$8.6bn, compared with US$6.8bn during the first quarter of 2006.

Premier Automotive Group (PAG) reported a record pre-tax profit of US$402m for the first quarter, compared with a pre-tax profit of US$152m for the same period in 2006. First-quarter 2007 revenue was US$8.4bn, compared with US$7.1bn a year ago.

See also: US: Bridging 'perception gap' in NA is our biggest challenge - Ford's Fields