A top Ford executive has said he is “encouraged” by US sales which are running ahead of last year as the company reported a boost in revenue in the first quarter.

Ford Americas president Mark Fields said: “We’re starting to see the economic metrics start to go in the right direction. I’m cautiously optimistic on consumer confidence.”

Although Fields did not give exact sales figures, his comments added to evidence of a rebound in the US market after sales slumped to a 27-year low in 2009. Industrywide deliveries rose 24% in March, according to market analyst Autodata, a fifth consecutive monthly rise.

Fields added: “The big question is not so much do we have a recovery, but to what extent and how long will it take?”

Analusts expect Ford to report sales of US$28bn for the first quarter compared with US$24.8bn in the same period a year ago.

Net income is forecast at US$978.8m versus a net loss of US$1.43bn last year. The company hasn’t said when it will release first quarter results.

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According to Autodata, Ford finished the quarter with 17.4% of the domestic market, an increase of 2.7% percentage points – the company’s largest quarterly gain since the last three months of 1977, Fields said.