Updated from 9:30 a.m. EDTConfident Ford ( F) plans a slight boost in its production rate, a positive sign in a questionable economy. The automaker, which reported Friday that it beat first-quarter estimates and reduced its cash burn, plans to build 435,000 vehicles in North America during the current quarter. That is 250,000 fewer than last year, but 10,000 more than the company's earlier guidance. "We believe we have the dealer stocks well in line with what we see with the reception of new products," said CEO Alan Mulally, on an earnings conference call Friday. "We believe we can go up a little bit more to support the real demand." The announcement comes a day after General Motors ( GM) said it has scheduled shutdowns at 13 of its 21 assembly plants in North America during the next three months, in an effort to remove 190,000 vehicles from production. It provides one more boost in Ford's continuing effort to separate itself from its competitors. In the first quarter, Ford produced 349,000 cars in North America, a 50% decline, as the auto industry moved to reduce inventory levels and struggled with sharply reduced sales. Ford sales dropped 41% in March. The company now projects full-year North America vehicle sales around 10.5 million, the lower end of its forecast range, but above the 9.8 rate of the first quarter. "It's been a long journey to get to a point where production matched demand, but now we're in a position to adjust as we see opportunity in the market place, and we see good demand for vehicles such as the Fusion," said Ford spokesman Mark Truby.