updated 4/20/2005 1:41:38 PM ET 2005-04-20T17:41:38

Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday its earnings fell 38.5 percent to $1.2 billion in the first quarter, but beat Wall Street expectations. The nation’s No. 2 automaker said it expects a loss in the second quarter.

Earnings for the January-March period amounted to 60 cents a share, compared with net income of $1.95 billion, or 94 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2004.

Excluding special items, first-quarter earnings were $1.26 billion, or 62 cents a share, compared with $1.98 billion, or 96 cents a share, a year ago. Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected earnings of 39 cents per share in the latest period.

Dearborn-based Ford said last week it anticipated beating its own earnings projection of 25 cents to 35 cents per share in the first quarter.

Revenue in the quarter rose to $45.1 billion from $44.7 billion a year ago.

Ford chairman and chief executive Bill Ford credited Ford’s three-year-old turnaround effort for the profitable quarter.

“Going forward, we will continue to focus on improving our quality, lowering our costs and delivering exciting new products, as well as taking actions that strengthen our finances, optimize our global footprint and lead to the faster development of new products,” Ford said in a statement.

Still, the company said it expects a loss of up to 15 cents a share in the second quarter.

Although the picture was brighter at Ford than at General Motors Corp., which announced a $1.1 billion first-quarter loss Tuesday, Ford reduced its full-year earnings guidance earlier this month by a third to $1.25 to $1.50 per share. The company maintained that guidance Wednesday.

Ford’s U.S. sales were down 4 percent for the first three months of this year. The automaker has enjoyed modest success of its car sales, which are up 5 percent from the year-ago quarter, but light truck sales have fallen off 7.9 percent.

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