Goodyear (GT) - Get Report narrowed its first-quarter loss as sales rose 21% due in part to stronger tire unit volume and pricing.

The tiremaker said after the bell Friday that its loss narrowed to $76.9 million, or 44 cents a share, from $196.5 million, or $1.12 a share, a year earlier.

Both the latest and year-ago quarter contained various charges against earnings, but Goodyear said total segment operating income rose to $216.1 million from $42 million last year.

Sales increased to $4.3 billion from $3.55 billion a year earlier; tire unit volume was 55.7 million units, up from 52.6 million units in 2003.

Goodyear said sales increased because of stronger volume, higher pricing and a more-favorable product mix, as well as an estimated $200 million positive impact of currency translation.

"Our operating results have improved dramatically as a result of strong volume, improved pricing and a richer product mix, as well as our cost reduction efforts and the strategies we are implementing to improve our business economics," said Robert J. Keegan, chairman and chief executive. "While challenges remain, we are pleased with the continuing success of our turnaround strategies and with our progress to date."

Keegan said those challenges include high levels of debt and unfunded pension obligations. He said the company will work on these with specific strategies including refinancing to lengthen debt maturities, potential asset sales to reduce the obligations and, ultimately, seeking increased equity funding to improve Goodyear's credit profile.