NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Ford (F) - Get Reportbeat analysts' forecasts and posted its best quarterly automotive profit in 15 years as the U.S. automaker said the second half of 2015 will be "even stronger."
Second-quarter pretax operating profit hit $2.9 billion for the period, up 10% or $269 million from a year earlier. Net income reached $1.9 billion, up 44% or $574 million from last year.
The per-share net profit of 47 cents easily beat the 37 cents expected by analysts. Ford shares recently traded at $14.66. Shares are down 5.4% for the year to date.
The U.S. automaker was exultant after a weak first quarter caused by the changeover in manufacturing systems and lost production necessitated by retooling for a new full-size F-Series pickup truck at its assembly plants. The new F-Series is the first mass manufactured pickup truck offered by any automaker to be constructed from aluminum rather than steel.
Five days ago, General Motors (GM) - Get Reportalso posted strong second-quarter earnings and likewise beat the expectations of analysts. GM is the biggest U.S.-based automaker followed by Ford. Both automakers are benefiting from lower fuel prices and rising sense of economic optimism in the U.S., their key market, which has translated into strong sales of pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles.
Ford dealers won't be fully stocked with aluminum-body pickups until September, Ford has said.
Stronger earnings at Ford and GM, along with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) - Get Report,could prove a sticking point in contract talks with the United Auto Workers union, which began this month and are set to conclude in September. The union is demanding higher wages, while the automakers prefer to reward workers through profit-sharing provisions in their labor contracts.
Ford said its overall results were driven by record performance in North America and Asia Pacific, primarily China, while Europe -- a chronic trouble spot -- posted breakeven numbers, as demand on the continent has improved.
Bob Shanks, chief financial officer, explained that North America was influenced positively by $526 million attributable to higher prices for its vehicles and a reduction of $219 million in spending on discounts, compared with the year earlier. Three months ago, Shanks vowed that Ford's results would improve as the year progressed.
"We were kind of getting the best of both worlds at the same time," Shanks told reporters at Ford headquarters of conditions during the second quarter.
"Customers are loving our products," Shanks said. "F-150 sales are strong and the momentum is growing."
Ford's quarterly revenue of $37.3 billion beat expectations of $35.34 billion.
Shanks acknowledged slowing demand for automobiles in China, the world's largest vehicle market. He said Ford was reducing its 2015 forecast for the Chinese market to 23 million vhicles from an earlier 24 million vehicles sold. Ford had been looking for sales as high as 26.5 million vehicles in China just six months ago.
Ford Motor Credit, the automaker's financing subsidiary, posted a pretax profit of $506 million, $72 million better than a year ago, on more consumer loans globally and leasing in North America, the automaker said.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.