Quarterly profit at Lear Corp. rose 35% thanks to higher sales of its vehicle interior systems, improved operating efficiencies and lower interest expenses.

Reuters said automotive interior makers such as Lear are benefiting from a push among the domestic manufacturers to upgrade the inside of the vehicle and from the popularity of sport utility vehicles which offer more seating.

Lear, which makes seats, interior trim and electrical systems, reportedly said price reductions to its automaker customers and plant consolidation costs partly offset the positive impact of stronger sales and other cost savings.

According to Reuters, Lear reported first-quarter net income rose to $US91.4 million, or $1.30 a share, from $67.9 million, or $1.01 a share, a year earlier. The company said consolidation costs of 10 cents a share that had been expected in the first quarter would be included in the second quarter instead.

Analysts on average had expected first-quarter earnings of $1.17 a share, with estimates ranging from $1.15 to $1.20, according to Reuters Research.

Lear reportedly said sales in the first quarter climbed to $4.49 billion from $3.90 billion a year earlier.

Lear raised its full-year 2004 sales forecast to about $16.6 billion, up from $15.7 billion in 2003, on new business and the acquisition of German electrical components maker GHW Grote & Hartmann GmbH, which it expects to close by June 30, Reuters said.

But Lear reportedly left its full-year 2004 earnings forecast unchanged at $5.85 to $6.25 a share.

For the second quarter, the parts supplier forecast net income per share in the range of $1.55 to $1.65, which includes the consolidation expenses originally planned for the first quarter. Second-quarter sales are expected to rise 5% to $4.3 billion, Reuters said.