Shares of Harley-Davidson jumped almost 7 percent in premarket trading after the company reported first-quarter earnings that were 18.7 percent higher than a year ago.

The Milwaukee company said motorcycle sales grew 5.8 percent worldwide and efficiency efforts took hold during the quarter. Its earnings topped Wall Street estimates.

CVO Deluxe Harley-Davidson at the South East Harley-Davidson in Bedford, Ohio. Harley Davidson reports quarterly earnings on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

That sent shares up nearly 7 percent before the opening bell.

The company posted net income of $265.9 million, up from $224.1 million a year ago.

That's $1.21 per share, compared with 99 cents in the first quarter of 2013. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.07 per share.

Motorcycle and related products revenue rose 11 percent to $1.57 billion. Overall revenue including financial services rose to $1.73 billion from $1.57 billion.

Motorcycle sales grew 3 percent in the U.S. to 35,730 during the quarter despite a long, cold winter, CEO Keith Wandell said in a statement.

But international sales, especially in Asia, helped the first-quarter results. Harley said Asia-Pacific motorcycle sales rose more than 20 percent to 7,178 for the quarter. In the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, sales were up 8 percent to 9,940, while they rose 9 percent in Latin America to 2,558.

The company said demand for its Project Rushmore motorcycles was high during the quarter, and it also started shipping the Harley-Davidson Street 750 and 500 models in selected markets.

"These motorcycles, together with continuous improvement in our operations at every level, underscore the momentum we've established as a customer-led company," Wandell's statement said.

Harley reiterated guidance of growing motorcycle shipments this year, up 7 percent to 9 percent to a range of 279,000 to 284,000. The company expects second-quarter shipments to rise 9 percent to 15 percent to a range of 92,000 to 97,000, up from 84,606 a year earlier.

Harley expects capital spending this year of $215 million to $235 million, the same as it estimated when it reported fourth-quarter earnings.

The company reported provisions for higher credit losses cut operating income for its financial services operation. That income was $63.2 million, down almost 12 percent from a year earlier.

Its shares rose $4.51, or 6.7 percent, to $72.05 in premarket trading about 45 minutes ahead of the market open.