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Ford sees more growth overseas

Domestic profits up; Asia, South America take to smaller cars

– Ford Motor Co. is finally becoming the well-rounded company it aspires to be.

Almost bankrupt last decade because it relied too heavily on selling big trucks and SUVs in North America, the second-largest U.S. automaker is now making small and midsize cars at a profit and selling them across the globe.

Ford’s Asian operations earned a record quarterly profit of $117 million in the three months ended June 30, and 20 percent of Ford’s sales came from the region. That’s up from 11 percent five years ago. Sales also grew in South America, where second-quarter profit jumped to $151 million from $5 million a year ago.

Ford even narrowed its losses in recession-weary Europe.

“I call it a green shoot. We’re at the beginning of the phase where you’ll start to see – over the next several years – the operations outside of North America take on a lot more significance,” Ford’s Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said Wednesday at the company’s Dearborn headquarters. “You’re starting to see what’s possible.”

North America still contributed the bulk of Ford’s net income, which grew 18.5 percent to $1.23 billion in the April-June period.

But Shanks said the rest of Ford’s global regions broke even for the first time in two years, clawing their way back from a $600 million loss in the first quarter.

Ford’s stock rose 2.5 percent to close at $17.37 Wednesday, its highest close since Jan. 27, 2011.

The company’s results were propelled by a $2.3 billion profit in North America, a second-quarter record for that region. Pickup truck sales are booming in the U.S., where construction companies and other businesses are rapidly replacing the fleets they held onto during the recession.

Sales of Ford’s F-Series pickup – which has long been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. – jumped 26 percent in the second quarter, or more than three times the average industry increase.

Ford’s total U.S. sales rose 15 percent during the quarter, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Bill Selesky, an analyst with Argus Research in New York, said Ford is attracting new buyers worldwide with the strongest lineup it’s ever had.

In the U.S., Ford set a quarterly record for hybrid sales thanks to its new C-Max, and the company has said that more than 60 percent of its U.S. hybrid buyers are trading in other brands.