First quarter net sales of $1,119.3 million decreased by 4.5 percent year-over-year including 4.8 percent negative foreign currency impacts. Constant currency net sales increased 0.3 percent in the period, driven by 2.1 percent higher average price and product mix and modest acquisition contribution, offset partly by 2.1 percent lower organic volumes. First quarter net sales growth ex-FX was driven by modest growth from the Americas seen in higher price and product mix and growth in Commercial Vehicle end-markets, partially offset by lower net sales from Asia Pacific, given ongoing volume pressure from China in Transportation Coatings.
Income from operations for the first quarter totaled $98.6 million, down 17.8 percent from $120 million in Q1 2018. This was driven by lower reported net sales including negative foreign currency effects and continued headwinds from year-over-year variable cost inflation. The quarter was also impacted by $6.1 million in accelerated depreciation charges associated with the company's anticipated Belgium plant closure and a $5.2 million loss on an anticipated sale of a 60 percent owned powder coatings joint venture in China.
Adjusted EBIT of $143.9 million for the first quarter decreased by 9.3 percent versus $158.6 million in Q1 2018. This result was driven by substantial year-over-year variable cost inflation impacts, negative impacts from foreign currency, and headwinds from lower volumes primarily in Light Vehicle, offset in part by strong contribution from higher average price and product mix and from improved overall productivity.
"First quarter results met our previously provided guidance, and were produced despite several headwinds, including notably higher raw material costs and a substantial swing in foreign exchange impacts versus first quarter 2018," said Robert W. Bryant, Axalta's CEO. "Our Performance Coatings segment saw a strong ongoing price and mix improvement, more than offsetting slightly negative volumes in the quarter. In Transportation Coatings, we saw a modest increase in average prices while product mix had a decremental impact in the quarter. Light Vehicle volume also saw pressure from slower global production rates, notably from double-digit declines in China versus the prior year quarter. Our focus on productivity also contributed to lower overall operating costs for the first quarter."
Performance Coatings first quarter net sales were $713.3 million, a decrease of 2.4 percent year-over-year including a 4.8 percent negative currency impact. Constant currency net sales increased 2.4 percent in the period, driven by 1.9 percent organic sales growth which was primarily the result of improved average price and mix. Acquisitions contributed 0.5 percent to net sales growth.
Refinish end-market net sales decreased 2.1 percent to $405.5 million in Q1 2019 (increased 3.5 percent excluding foreign currency) with strong average price and mix contribution offset partly by lower volume, which in North America resulted largely from moderate distributor channel inventory reduction. Industrial end-market net sales decreased 2.8 percent to $307.8 million (increased one percent excluding foreign currency), including positive pricing across all regions offset partly by modest organic volume declines from EMEA and to a lesser extent in Asia Pacific.
The Performance Coatings segment generated Adjusted EBIT of $78.6 million in the first quarter, a 3.4 percent year-over-year increase. Positive price and product mix and a very modest acquisition contribution were offset partly by impact from raw material inflation, volume declines and foreign exchange headwinds. First quarter segment Adjusted EBIT margin of 11 percent improved from 10.4 percent in the prior year as price and product mix more than offset ongoing raw material headwinds.
Transportation Coatings net sales were $406 million in Q1 2019, a decrease of 7.9 percent year-over-year, including a 4.8 percent negative currency impact. Constant currency net sales decreased 3.1 percent in the period including a 3.3 percent decrease in volume, offset by 0.2 percent higher average price and product mix effect.
Light Vehicle net sales decreased 10.6 percent to $315.9 million year-over-year (decreased 5.4 percent excluding foreign currency), driven by lower volumes and foreign exchange impacts, offset by moderately higher average price and product mix. Overall average pricing remained positive in the period, offset partially by negative product mix effects. Commercial Vehicle net sales increased 2.6 percent to $90.1 million from Q1 2018 (increased 6.6 percent excluding foreign currency), including stronger volumes led by North America and largely stable markets globally. Average price and product mix were essentially flat.
Transportation Coatings generated Adjusted EBIT of $34.2 million in Q1 2019, a decrease of 24 percent versus Q1 2018, driven by the impact from raw material inflation as well as lower volume, while average price and product mix were a slight positive offset. Segment Adjusted EBIT margin of 8.4 percent in Q1 2019 compared with 10.2 percent in Q1 2018.
Axalta ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $501.1 million. The company's debt, net of cash, was $3.4 billion as of March 31, 2019, which compared with $3.2 billion as of year-end 2018. This was driven by the first quarter use of operating cash flow, as well as share repurchases made in the period. Axalta net debt to trailing 12 month Adjusted EBITDA ratio was 3.6x at quarter end. Axalta repurchased 2.5 million shares of its common stock in the first quarter of 2019 for total consideration of $65.8 million.
First quarter operating cash flow totaled a use of $57.9 million versus a use of $21.0 million in the corresponding quarter of 2018, reflecting lower operating income and modest working capital headwinds partially due to the timing of collections. Free cash flow totaled a use of $74.9 million compared to use of $60.5 million in the first quarter of 2018.
"Axalta's first quarter included strong overall operating performance, meeting our outlined guidance from late January," said Sean Lannon, Axalta's CFO. "We are pleased that operating and financial performance remains on track for our full year expectation, and we remain focused on achieving our goals despite Q1 headwinds seen in foreign currency as well as incremental volume pressures from our Industrial and Light Vehicle end-markets. We are also focused on achieving continued incremental pricing offsets to variable input inflation while driving productivity across the enterprise via Axalta Way initiatives."
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the company adopted ASU 2016-02, "Leases", which requires, among other items, lessees to identify arrangements that should be accounted for as leases and generally recognize for operating and finance leases with terms exceeding 12 months, a right-of-use asset and lease liability on the balance sheet. There were no material impacts to the condensed consolidated statement of operations or statement of cash flows related to the adoption.
The adoption impacted the following line items within the unaudited condensed consolidated balance sheet as of March 31, 2019. There are no impacts to prior period financial information related to the change in accounting for leases.