DEARBORN, Mich. - Improving sales in most of the world helped Ford Motor (F) achieve a record pretax profit in 2015, and the company says the numbers could go even higher this year.
Full-year pretax profit jumped 48 percent to $10.8 billion as its global sales and market share grew. Ford's U.S. sales reached their highest level in a decade, and its F-Series pickup remained the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for the 34th straight year. A change in the way Ford accounts for its pension costs also boosted pretax results.
Bob Shanks, Ford's chief financial officer, said 2015 was the "breakthrough year" Ford promised after it spent heavily in 2014 to build new plants in Asia and bring a new, aluminum-sided F-150 pickup to market in the U.S. Ford expects this year's pretax profit to be equal or higher.
"We've been saying for quite some time that we are probably at a plateau at very high absolute levels," he said. Shanks said low oil prices, low interest rates and a growing housing market in the U.S. all bode well for 2016.
Last year's results will mean a record profit-sharing check of $9,300 for each of Ford's 53,000 U.S. hourly workers.
North America drove Ford's results, with a pretax profit of $9.3 billion. But Ford also achieved its highest-ever pretax profit of $765 million in its Asia Pacific region and returned to profitability in Europe for the first time since 2011. South America remained weak, but Shanks noted that even in that volatile region, Ford managed to command higher prices.
"We really started to see the international operations start to come forward," Shanks said. "That is the real opportunity for Ford."
Ford's full-year net income jumped to $7.4 billion. Excluding one-time items, such as $600 million in employee separation payments, Ford earned $1.93 per share, beating Wall Street's forecast. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting full-year earnings of $1.73 per share.
Ford's revenue rose 4 percent to $149.6 billion for the year, also beating forecasts. Global sales rose 5 percent to 6.6 million for the year.
Ford launched 16 vehicles worldwide last year, down from 24 the year before. New products, like the three-row Edge SUV, helped it achieve record sales of 1.1 million in China.
Fourth-quarter net profit more than doubled to $1.9 billion. After one-time items, Ford earned 58 cents per share for the quarter, beating Wall Street's forecast of 50 cents.
Fourth-quarter revenue rose 12 percent to $40.3 billion, also beating analysts' expectations.