Ford said on Tuesday (30 October) it had booked best-ever third quarter profit – a pre-tax of US$2.2bn ($0.40 a share) and net of $1.6bn ($0.41). It ended the quarter with liquidity of $34.4bn, up $500m from the second quarter.

That operating profit of 40 cents per share beat the average estimate of 30 cents, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S survey of analysts.

Third quarter revenue dipped 3% to to US$32.1bn, better than the $30.9bn expected by analysts in the news ahency’s poll.

Net profit was on par with results from last year.

“The Ford team delivered a best-ever third quarter, driven by record results in North America and the continued strength of Ford Credit,” president and CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement.

“While we are facing near-term challenges in Europe, we are fully committed to transforming our business in Europe by moving decisively to match production to demand, improve revenue through new products and a stronger brand, improve our cost efficiencies and take advantage of opportunities to profitably grow our business.”

“To me, the story isn’t just the results in the quarter, but the consistency of the results,” chief financial officer Bob Shanks told Reuters.

The increase in total automotive pre-tax profit and operating margin was “more than explained” by the record quarter in North America, Ford said.

There, pre-tax profit was over $2bn and operating margin passed 10%. North American pre-tax profit for the first nine months of 2012 passed the 2011 full year profit.

“Significantly higher” pre-tax operating profit and margin compared with 2011 is expected for the full year due to strong sales of the numerous new products sold there.

However, South America pre-tax profit and operating margin declined substantially due to the weaker Brazilian real, the launch of new models and production reductions in Venezuela related to currency restrictions.

“Ford continues to expect South America to be profitable for the full year but at a level substantially lower than 2011, consistent with prior guidance,” the automaker said.

Ford Europe, as widely discussed in the past week, remained a train wreck with a third quarter pre-tax loss of $468m and negative operating margin of 8% and year to date loss of $1.021bn (-5.1%) – this time last year the division had booked a $163m profit.

Factors cited by Ford included the “lowest level of industry sales in almost 20 years”.

With industry sales for the 19 markets the company reports having dropped by 20% in the past five years and only modest improvement expected by mid-decade, Ford now considers the changes in the European business environment to be structural, rather than cyclical, in nature – hence its various “actions to accelerate its European transformation and restore its European operations to profitability by mid-decade, targeting a long-term operating margin for Ford Europe of 6 to 8%”.

While plants and R&D facilities are slated for closure, Ford Europe’s pre-tax loss for full year 2012 is seen exceeding $1.5bn.

Ford Asia Pacific Africa and Ford China set market share records in the third quarter as the company began to benefit from increased capacity and strong sales of the recently launched Focus in China and Ranger pickup in the region. A third quarter profit improvement was due to stronger sales and rates but costs rose. Asia Pacific Africa is expected to post a loss, roughly in line with 2011.

“Our record quarterly profit and operating margin in North America, the acceleration of the transformation of our business in Europe that will return it to profitability by mid-decade, and the achievement of record quarterly Ford market share in both Asia Pacific Africa and in China all demonstrate that our One Ford plan is working,” said CFO Shanks.

“We will continue to assess opportunities to strengthen our business and achieve profitable growth in all the regions in which we operate.”