Despite a sharp increase in incentives, Chrysler Corp. managed net income of $1.052 billion, a first-quarter record.
Chrysler's net income was up 2.2 percent, surpassing the previous first-quarter record of $1.029 billion set last year.
Ford Motor Co. reports first-quarter earnings on Thursday, April 16; General Motors will report on Friday, April 17.
Ford profits should be up about 14 percent, said David Healy, auto industry analyst for Burnham Securities Inc. in New York. That does not include a big one-time gain from the sale of The Associates. GM should be 'roughly unchanged,' Healy said.
Steve Girsky, auto industry analyst for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in New York, agreed. 'GM volume will be down, and it's pretty hard to have 'up' earnings when you have 'down' volume,' Girsky said.
Chrysler's $1.60 income per share was a record for any quarter, and topped the $1.50 that Wall Street analysts had projected.
'Our volume improved year to year and that helped quite a bit,' said James Donlon III, Chrysler vice president and controller.
Chrysler was able to reduce costs while building more profitable trucks during the first quarter, Donlon said.
First-quarter truck sales were up 9 percent, mostly driven by the new Dodge Durango sport-utility and Dodge Ram Quad Cab pickup truck.
Chrysler's market share increased to 16 percent in the United States, up from 15.4 percent in the first quarter last year.
But Chrysler's average U.S. retail incentives per vehicle skyrocketed to $1,230 in the quarter, up $525 from a year ago. Chrysler will continue to increase incentives this year, he said.
Helping to offset incentives, Chrysler shaved $300 million in costs during the first quarter, part of its $1.5 billion cost-cutting goal this year. The reductions came in the materials, manufacturing and administrative areas.
Chrysler had revenues of $16.8 billion, compared to $16.1 billion a year ago.