Johnson Controls has reported a 19% rise in quarterly earnings thanks to increased sales, the benefit of the weak dollar and a lower tax rate.

According to Reuters, the automotive interior components maker said sales rose across its business groups and, although US carmakers’ vehicle production declined during the quarter, its is benefiting from an overall trend by the ‘Big Three’ to upgrade their vehicles’ interiors.

“The interiors companies … they’ve all had much better sales growth than the market as a whole,” Martin King, debt analyst with Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services, told the news agency.

Johnson Controls reportedly said net income in its fiscal second quarter ended March 31 rose to $US157.7 million, or 82 cents a share, from $132.2 million, or 70 cents a share, a year ago.

Analysts had expected earnings of 79 cents a share, with estimates ranging from 74 cents to 85 cents, according to Reuters Research.

Second-quarter sales climbed 20% to $6.62 billion and Johnson Controls said the weak dollar, which raises the value of overseas sales when they are converted into dollars, accounted for 7% of the gain, the report noted.

Automotive group sales in the second quarter rose 23% to $5.10 billion in the quarter, boosted by new interior systems business and higher battery sales, Reuters said.

The report added that the company also confirmed its previous forecast for double-digit net income growth in fiscal 2004 on a sales increase of 13% to 15% – it sees sales growth of 13% to 18% in automotive.