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Old 06-05-2003, 06:43   #1 (permalink)
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Ford visits Mt. Vernon, Chairman reflects on company impact, future

June 5, 2003
BY DEE-ANN DURBIN
ASSOCIATED PRESS

MT. VERNON, Va. -- Ford Motor Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William Clay Ford Jr. visited George Washington's home Wednesday to reminisce about Ford's past and hint at his hopes for the future, including his wish that Congress would approve tax credits for hybrid-electric vehicles.

"I don't think there's a company that's had a greater impact on people's lives around the world as Ford Motor Co. did in the 20th Century," Ford told a crowd of around 200 auto dealers, Ford employees and others who gathered at historic Mt. Vernon.

The trip was part of the company's 100th anniversary celebration. It came nearly 80 years after the chairman's great-grandfather, Henry Ford, donated the first fire engine to Mt. Vernon after he toured the home and noticed it lacked fire equipment.

"You cannot help but feel almost overwhelmed when you come here by the sweep of history," Ford said.

During his response to questions from the crowd, Ford said automakers are going through the third major downturn in his 25 years with the company and continue to struggle in an "all-out incentive war." He noted DaimlerChrysler AG's announcement this week that it will extend incentives into the summer after losing $1.2 billion in the second quarter.

"That's the environment we're dealing with," Ford said. "Rather than complain about it, we've got to get about our business and do as well as we can."

Ford said the company has met or exceeded every Wall Street target since it began its five-year turnaround plan 18 months ago. He also said Ford has a strong lineup of new vehicles, including the new F150 and the first hybrid-electric sport-utility vehicle on the market.

"Our goal is to have an even greater impact in our next century than in our first, which is a tall order," Ford said.

Ford said he drove the hybrid-electric Escape for the first time two weeks ago and was so impressed with its handling that he plans to drive it regularly once it hits the market in 2004. He said the Escape will get up to 40 miles per gallon in the city.

To encourage buyers to consider hybrids, Ford was expected to ask lawmakers to pass hybrid vehicle tax credits during a congressional dinner Wednesday evening. The Bush administration supports a onetime $2,000 tax deduction for hybrid owners. Ford said he supports a $3,000 credit.
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