NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Ford Motor’s strong performance in North America led to improved fourth-quarter earnings and sales, the No. 2 U.S. automaker reported Tuesday.
Ford reported operating income rose 54% in the fourth quarter. Overall revenue rose 5.5% to $36.5 billion, as the number of vehicles sold worldwide jumped 7%.
Despite the quarterly improvement, full-year operating earnings of $5.7 billion were down 5% from 2011.
In North America, pretax automotive earnings more than doubled to $1.87 billion in the quarter. Full-year earnings in the region reached $8.3 billion, up more than a third over 2011 results.
The strong performance on its home turf countered worse-than-expected weakness in Europe. Ford’s operations on the continent lost $732 million in the quarter, bringing full-year losses to $1.75 billion. The figure was wider than the $1.5 billion the company warned about in October.
Ford has announced plant closings and other measures to try to stem European losses.
The problems in Europe are dogging other automakers as well. The European sovereign debt crisis, which has caused record high unemployment and has plunged the continent into a recession, have cut European car sales to a 20-year low.
Ford, the No. 2 automaker in terms of U.S. sales behind only General Motors, had a more modest sales gain in its home market. Ford’s 4.7% gain in U.S. vehicle sales was by far the smallest of any major automaker last year, when overall U.S. car sales rebounded 14.5% for the best annual result since 2007.
Despite losing market share, the outlook for earnings at Ford is strong due to the rising demand for cars in North America. There’s also optimism about some new models set for release — notably, a new version of its F-150 pickup truck, the nation’s best-selling vehicle, and the Fusion, its midsize sedan.
The company was confident enough in results to double its dividend earlier this month, and announce its biggest hiring plans for white-collar jobs, including engineering positions, in more than a decade.