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Ford: Company will beat expectations in 2003

February 3, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ford Motor Co. kicked off 2003 with a solid month of sales as the automaker continues its quest to build trust among customers, investors and dealers, Bill Ford Jr. said Saturday night.

Ford, who spoke at the National Automobile Dealers Association's 86th convention, said the company's January sales topped those from a year ago despite predictions that industry volume would decline after a robust December.

Ford reiterated his expectations that the company also will top Wall Street earnings estimates this year and said the goal is vital to restoring confidence in the world's No. 2 automaker.

"We're just going to have to continue to make or exceed expectations," Ford told reporters after his speech. "We did it in all four quarters last year and we're off to a good start in January.

"It's a long process. We lost a lot of credibility in 2001 as a company."

Despite uncertain market conditions and increasing foreign competition, Ford has said he expects the company to improve market share in all global regions in 2003 and post full-year earnings of 70 cents a share -- well ahead of current Wall Street forecasts of 53 cents.

Ford lost $980 million last year and saw its U.S. market share slip, but the performance was a vast improvement over a $5.45 billion loss in 2001 that prompted a companywide restructuring.

Ford has continually said the turnaround will be product-led, and he points to last month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit as confirmation.

Ford introduced 15 production and concept vehicles at the show, three times more than what it typically unveils.

Nonetheless, a concern among analysts and even some Ford dealers is that the company has only one significant new product this year -- the best-selling F-150 pickup.

Ford's U.S. market share fell to 21.3 percent in 2002 from 22.9 percent in 2001.

During his speech to dealers, Ford said the company would produce its 300 millionth vehicle in 2003, probably in November -- a second major milestone for the company this year. Ford also turns 100 on June 16.

Ford officials say they expect automotive operations to break even before taxes this year after a $539 million loss in 2002.

The credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's last week cited that goal as an important benchmark.

"If Standard & Poor's came to believe that Ford was not on a trajectory towards meeting this objective, the long-term and short-term ratings would be reassessed," S&P said in a report.

Like others in the industry, Ford expects U.S. light vehicle sales to decline in 2003 to about 16.5 million, down from 16.8 million last year.

Analysts have said it could be difficult for Ford and other domestic automakers to grow their U.S. market share as foreign transplants add new products and manufacturing capacity in North America.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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