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Old 10-23-2002, 21:44   #1 (permalink)
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Ford CEO reaffirms long-term goals

October 24, 2002
By ANN KEETON

CHICAGO (AP) -- October vehicle sales at Ford Motor Co. are looking "softer" so far this month, following strong sales in August and September, Chief Executive Bill Ford said Wednesday.

But it's too soon to tell whether the slowdown in sales growth is a seasonal aberration or the start of a long-term industry trend, the CEO told institutional investors at one of several meetings management has scheduled this week.

He declined to forecast 2003 sales for his company or for the auto industry, but said industry sales are likely to be lower in 2003 than 2002.

Still, Ford said, he sees no sign that industrywide buyer incentives, which have pushed up vehicle sales this year, will be ending any time soon.

Earlier Wednesday, Manfred Gentz, chief financial officer at rival carmaker DaimlerChrysler, said U.S. companies will rethink current incentive trends because they are hurting the bottom line.

Ford said the auto maker is on track to meet long-term financial goals in its turnaround plan begun earlier this year.

He said success with cost-cutting in 2002, including "beating our year-end target on material costs this year" should insure making its plan in 2003. Monday, Ford said the company is looking to make another $1 billion in cost cuts next year to offset possible problems in the economy.

He declined Wednesday to comment on where he thinks the U.S. economy is headed.

Chief Financial Officer Allan Gilmour reiterated that the company has adequate liquidity for additional pension funding, and is prepared to set aside more funds for reserves if they are needed.
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