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Ford Earnings Surpass Expectations

The Ford Motor Company's performance in the first quarter of this year was the automaker's best since 1998.Ford earned $2.6 billion in the quarter, surpassing Wall Street estimates by half a billion dollars. Company officials attribute the earnings to new vehicles and price increases that offset the rise in cost of raw materials. Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant is currently being retooled to manufacture new vehicles, including several models of the Escape.Officials say last month's earthquake and tsunami in Japan have not significantly hurt the company, as it has Japanese automakers. Ford has stopped production at several Asian plants this week, but the shutdowns are not expected to hurt profits.Ford is also making progress in paying down a $23 billion loan taken out in 2006. The company ended the quarter with $16.6 billion yet to be paid, after ending 2010 more than $19 billion in debt.

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.