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Ford vehicles are seen on the sales lot of Metro Ford in Miami, Fla. Ford announced today that it earned $2.08 billion, or 50 cents per share, during the first quarter of the year. - 


Steve Chiotakis: Today, Ford Motor Company holds its annual meeting in Delaware. It's been a relatively good year for Ford, with four straight profitable quarters and a rising stock price. All without government's help. So what's Ford's secret? Jill Barshay reports.

Jill Barhsy: Back in 2006, when Alan Mulally became CEO of the company, he had a choice: He could stick with Ford's traditional approach to the U.S. market or change things up. Dave Sedgwick is an automotive media consultant. He says Ford was enchanted with the success it had in Europe with a line of hip, sprightly models.

Dave Sedgwick: They were going to come up with an all-American look, whatever that means. And finally, they said no, screw it, let's go with the European look.

Sedgwick says the compact and fuel-efficient Fusions and Focuses are a hit over here. Americans are even trading in their Japanese cars for them.

Martin Zimmerman: Yes, they have good products now and they're selling well.

That's Martin Zimmerman. He's a former Ford executive at University of Michigan's business school:

Zimmerman: The question is, you've obviously made great progress. What are you doing to keep that rate of progress going?

Zimmerman says Ford's big problem is its $23 billion debt load. He says the company needs a pipeline of trendy cars that will sell so that Ford can keep making its payments.

I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.