Ford Motor Company announced today that it finished 2012 on an extremely high note. The company finished the fourth quarter of the year with net income of $1.6 billion, up from $1.03 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011. Moreover, that boosted Ford's full-year net income to $5.7 billion -- up from $5.66 billion in 2011.
Ford attributes the success to continuing strong sales in North America; last the company's U.S. sales rose 4.7 percent to 2.25 million vehicles. Accordingly, Ford's operating margin was 10.4 percent in 2012, up from 8.4 percent a year earlier. The automaker expects the strong financial results to continue this year and predicts a 2013 operating margin of about 10 percent, too.
The high North American profits mean that Ford will once again distribute profit-sharing checks to employees. On March 14, eligible hourly employees can expect to receive around $8300, depending on hours worked.
Despite strong performances here, Ford's checkbook remains hampered by poor results in Europe. Ford Europe lost $1.75 billion before taxes in 2012, giving it an operating margin of -6.6 percent. Although Ford recognized that European car sales would tumble and took drastic action like closing factories, the automaker wasn't able to escape heavy losses on the continent. Car sales in Europe totaled just 13.5 million last year, the lowest level since 1995. Ford expects similar sales volume next year and plans to lose about $2 billion there in 2013.
Other regions had mixed results. In South America, the company's full-year operating margin fell 5.7 percentage points year-over-year to 2.1 percent, partly due to currency fluctuations in places like Brazil that cut into profits. Ford Asia Pacific Africa saw its full-year operating profit climb to -0.8 percent, from -1.1 percent in 2011, thanks to a 41-percent sales growth in the region. It was also the first year the Ford APA sold more than one million vehicles and recorded more than $10 billion in revenue.
"Our focus this year will be to continue our strong performance in North America and at Ford Credit, while at the same time, addressing challenges and opportunities in other parts of our business," Ford chief financial officer Bob Shanks said in a statement. "In Europe this means executing our transformation plan, while in South America we will continue to refresh our entire product line-up, and in Asia Pacific we will continue to invest for even stronger, profitable growth in the future."