"This is not just a North America story," Ford CFO Bob Shanks said. "We really started to see the international operations come forward."
Ford's global market share rose to 7.3 percent, from 7.1 percent a year earlier, even as share in the U.S. slipped to 14.9 percent from 15 percent in 2014.
Ford CEO Mark Fields described returning to profitability in Europe as "just the first step." He and other executives say the automaker intends to make Europe a meaningful contributor to its global earnings.
"Profitability is interesting, but I don't think any of us wake up and say, 'I'd love to break even,'" Jim Farley, the head of Ford Europe, said in an interview last month. "We're there to make a sustainable and vibrant business."
For now, though, North America is unquestionably the nexus of Ford's empire. Its results mean 53,000 UAW members will get record profit-sharing payouts averaging $9,300.
In the past five years, Ford has earned pretax profits of $42.3 billion in North America, or about $1 million an hour. In 2015, it earned $3,041 on every vehicle sold here, compared to a loss of about $4,700 per vehicle in 2006, when Ford posted its biggest loss ever and hired Boeing executive Alan Mulally as CEO.
"These results once again demonstrate that our plan, our people and our process are delivering," Fields, who succeeded Mulally in 2014, said on a conference call last week. "This year, our commitment is to accelerate our pace of progress even further."
Before taxes, Ford earned a profit of $10.8 billion in 2015, a company record. Fields said it expects to match or beat that result this year.
Cash flow from Ford's automotive operations more than doubled last year, to $7.3 billion, the highest since 2001. Its margins rose to 6.8 percent, a mark executives said the company last hit in the 1990s.
"Every single financial metric improved on a year-over-year basis," Shanks said.
Ford's total net income quintupled from 2014, to $7.4 billion, but that didn't halt the decline in the company's stock value. Ford shares, which were already down more than 20 percent in the past year, fell as much as 5 percent more in the hours after the company released its results. Investors appear to be spooked by the potential that North American sales have peaked and could start declining, Shanks said.
He said Ford does not expect a sharp drop-off in demand anytime soon but said Ford is far more able to weather a tough economy than it was in 2008.
"We have a very strong, robust structure," Shanks said. "If and when there will be a downturn, we're very well prepared to manage that -- continue to be profitable, continue to pay our regular dividend and continue to invest in the business, so that when we come out on the other side, we'll be ready."