Ford Motor Co. is downplaying the role incentives played in its strong April sales results.

Although the Blue Oval’s average spiffs were almost double those of the top Asian competitors, Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst says on a segment-by-segment basis the auto maker is merely keeping pace.

According to Edmunds.com, which tracks incentive spending, Ford on average in April placed $3,214 on the hood of each vehicle sold, while American Honda Motor Co. Inc. doled out only $1,787 per unit and Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. $1,792.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., recovering from a string of recalls and quality issues, spent $2,498 per unit.

“If you look segment by segment, our incentives are aligned closely with our Asian competitors,” analyst George Pipas says today in a conference call with reporters and analysts.

“But Ford’s truck mix has a higher level of fullsize trucks. Honda, for example, has no fullsize trucks, and that’s (a segment) where you see higher transaction prices and incentives.”

While Ford long has been known for trucks, its cars and cross/utility vehicles played a large role in driving the auto maker’s combined fleet and retail light-vehicle sales in April up 24.8% on a daily basis, compared with year-ago (26 selling days this year and last), to 165,111.

“It was the fifth month in a row that sales increased more than 20% with contributions from all categories,” Pipas adds.

And despite outspending some competitors, Ford lowered its incentives on a year-over-year basis, with April’s average $404 less than like-2009.

Ken Czubay, Ford vice president-sales and marketing, says posting higher sales despite the reduced incentives is proof Ford’s focus on quality and fuel economy, combined with keeping production aligned with demand, is paying dividends.

“In used-car markets, auction data in the first quarter shows that the resale value of Ford products is up 23% vs. last year Q1,” he says, noting a ’10 Ford Fusion with a 4-cyl. engine is commanding $1,600 more on average than an ’09 model.

“We’re “outpacing the industry by four percentage points (in residual-value increases),” he says.

Ford’s car lineup, long a weakness, now is an area of strength. In April, sales of the Focus C-car soared 20.7% to 14,107.

Fusion midsize sedan sales were essentially flat at 1.2% growth on 17,455 units.

There were some disappointments in the car sector, however, including the Mustang, which saw deliveries plummet 33.2% vs. year-ago to 5,145 units.

A lack of fleet sales played a role in the decline, Pipas says.

“Cars are generally lower (than trucks) in fleet deliveries,” he says. “In the case of Mustang, that was true in spades. There were no fleet deliveries in April and 2,500 or so last year.”

In addition, there were too-few ’11 Mustangs on dealer lots, Pipas says. “So retail business was flat year to year; we had hardly any ’11 (models) in our report card. They were mostly (’10) carryover sales.”

Ford’s total fleet mix in April was 32%, up 13% vs. year-ago, when the market was depressed, Pipas says, noting most of this month’s increase was due to higher sales in the higher-margin commercial-fleet sector, rather than the daily rental business.

In the truck sector, Czubay says the all-new ’11 F-Series Super-Duty pickup is exceeding expectations. “We sold about 3,700 in April,” he says. “That’s more than double the number we thought we’d sell.”

The strong performance by Super Duty helped propel total F-Series sales up 43.5% vs. year-ago to 38,774 units.

The Transit Connect small commercial van had a record month in April, with sales of 2,229 units. Year-to-year comparisons are not possible, as the van hit the U.S. market last August.

While the Blue Oval turned in a solid performance in April, the Lincoln luxury brand’s numbers were deceiving, as most of its 22.0% gain in April came entirely from older vehicles in its lineup. Only the aging Town Car and Navigator fullsize SUV posted year-over-year increases.

The ’10 Lincoln MKT CUV, which went on sale last fall, sold only 625 copies, while Lincoln MKZ midsize sedan deliveries fell 8.9% to 1,817.

In explaining the poor results, Czubay points to the upcoming ’11 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid as a potential spark to the Lincoln brand, while Pipas says the auto maker is focusing much of its attention on the core Blue Oval brand.

“It’s a fair assessment to say the Ford brand is running ahead of all the other brands,” he says.

Volvo Car’s sales inched up 0.95% to 4,546 in April. Ford in March inked a deal to sell the Swedish auto maker to China-based Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.

The U.S. auto maker will continue to report Volvo sales until the transaction is finalized, Pipas says.

Ford ended April with a 393,000-unit inventory, consisting of 126,000 cars and 267,000 trucks.

bpope@wardsauto.com