Ford has reported lower first quarter profits as gains in North America were offset by difficulties in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Pre-tax operating profit fell US544m to $2.3bn, or 39 cents per share, and net income about halved to $1.4bn, down $1.2bn with about half of that blamed on higher taxes.

Automotive pre-tax operating profit fell $294m to $1.8bn but North America pre-tax profits rose $289m to $2.1bn, “the highest quarterly profit since at least 2000 when the company started reflecting North America as a separate business unit”, Ford said.

Ford Credit pre-tax operating profit slipped $261m to $452m.

Revenue was down $700m to $32.4bn.

Increased special charges were mainly buyouts of hourly workers in the US as part of the 2011 UAW agreement. 

Total vehicle wholesales in the first quarter were about 1.4m units, a decline of 45,000 units as lower volume in Europe and Asia Pacific Africa was offset only partially by higher sales in North and South America. 

Total Automotive revenue in the first quarter was $30.5bn, down $500m year on year.

North American pre-tax operating profit of $2.1bn was up from $1.8bn a year ago but South America slipped to $54m from $210m due mainly to higher costs and unfavourable exchange rates.

In Europe, where the company has axed eight pre-summer-break days of production at its Cologne Fiesta plant, and may axe more later in the year, Ford booked a pre-tax operating loss of $149m, compared with a profit of $293m a year ago, citing lower industry volumes, lower demand for parts and accessories, and “actions to reduce dealer stocks consistent with industry levels”.

Wholesales in the first quarter were down 60,000 units to 372,000 units and revenue off $1.5bn to $7.2bn.

Asia Pacific Africa region reported a pre-tax operating loss of $95m, compared with a profit of $33m a year ago with Ford noting a slower-than-planned launch of the new global Ranger pickup truck from factories in Thailand and South Africa.

Full-year pre-tax operating profit is expected to be about equal to 2011 with second half results slightly higher than the first half due to product launches and “capacity actions”.