Ford Motor Co. reported better-than-expected first quarter earnings thanks in part to a brisk business the automaker is doing with its Ford Fusion family sedan, which won AOL Autos Car of the Year honors for 2012.

Ford reported net income of $1.61 billion, compared with net income of $1.4 billion, or 35 cents a share, a year earlier.

Dearborn, Mich., based Ford earned $2.4 billion in North America, which off-set the slumping economy in Europe, which has hammered car sales. The company also posted losses in South America.

"We continue to expect 2013 to be another strong year, as we go further in strengthening our global product lineup and improving the competitiveness of our operations," said Ford CEO Alan Mulally. "Everyone at Ford remains laser focused on continuing to make progress on our One Ford plan and building a profitably growing Ford for the benefit of all our stakeholders."

Ford's market leading pickup truck business in North America also helped earnings out as construction and home sales, which always helps the truck market, has been picking up in the U.S. The Ford Focus has also done well since its redesign, being named the best selling single car worldwide for 2012, according to R.L. Polk.

First quarter automotive revenue totaled $33.9 billion, from $30.5 billion a year earlier.

"Ford has some really big winners that are driving revenue and profit in the F150, Fusion, Focus, Explorer and Escape," says AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley. "The other thing it has going for it is the deepest management bench ... but it needs to come out with some additional clear winning models to replace its full size cars and SUVs, and come up with a viable luxury strategy because Lincoln just isn't working."

Ford share were up in pre-market trading. The company also forecasted it will build more vehicles in both the U.S. and Europe in the second quarter to meet rising demand.

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