Ford President of the America’s Mark Fields said Tuesday that the company’s U.S. market share increased by 2.7 points during the first three months of this year.

“The last time we had a gain that big was back in the fourth quarter of 1977,” Fields said at a breakfast event in Detroit that coincided with the opening of SAE World Congress, an automotive engineering conference. “In 1977, 'Saturday Night Fever' was just being launched and 'Close Encounters of The Third Kind' was out, so it’s really been a long time.”

Through March, Ford’s share of U.S. auto sales was 17.4%, according to Autodata Corp. That puts Ford in second place for the year behind General Motors, whose market share over the first three months was 18.7%.

Both companies have benefited as Toyota struggled, especially in February, to deal with fallout related to the recall of nearly 6 million vehicles in the U.S. for faulty pedals or floor mats that could lead to sudden acceleration.

Fields said Ford achieved its market share gains with across-the-board sales increases for its cars, SUVs and pickups and said in April so far sales also have increased compared with the same month last year.

“We still have most of the month ahead of us, but it’s encouraging so far,” Fields said.

While Fields declined to say if Ford would post a profit for the first quarter, he said an industry-wide increase in incentives in March did not hurt the company’s first-quarter performance.

“Not only did we have good balanced share growth…year-over-year our incentives were down and our revenue was up,” Fields said.

He declined to elaborate further because the company is prohibited from commenting on financial results this close to reporting them. Ford typically reports first-quarter earnings at the end of April.

“We’ve said…our intent for this year is to be profitable in North America, profitable in automotive (operations) and profitable as a company,” Fields said.

Fields also said the U.S. economy appears to be recovering, but said the big question is how quickly.

“We are starting to see the economic metrics start to go in the right direction,” Fields said.


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