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Old 01-12-2005, 19:07   #1 (permalink)
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UK:Ford 'can now afford to take design risks'

Ford 'can now afford to take design risks'

Financial Times
By James Mackintosh


Ford Motor's financial turnround is working well enough for the company to begin taking risks with the design of its cars and spending money on environmental projects again, Bill Ford, chairman, said yesterday.


Mr Ford said the plan to earn $7bn by next year was still the company's intention. "We have a sense of confidence now as a company," he said. "We have the management team all aligned, we are back to profitability, we are back to positive cashflow and you will see us take more shots."

He pointed to the company's Fairlane concept, which blends elements of sport utility vehicles and people-carriers, and to the new Fusion mid-size saloon, which has more aggressive styling than last year's new car launches.

Sir Nick Scheele, who retires at the end of this month as president and chief operating officer, also pointed to the Shelby GR-1 concept supercar, which has a 605 horsepower engine.

Ford won the 2005 North American truck of the year award yesterday for its hybrid petrol-electric Escape SUV and unveiled plans for a range of new environmentally friendly vehicles.

But Mr Ford said the company would continue its strategy of chasing profit, not market share. Last year it lost 1.2 percentage points of market share in the US as it cut back low-profit-margin sales to car rental companies but automotive pre-tax profits in the first nine months were $1.14bn after a loss the previous year.

Ford was passed by Toyota in 2003 as the second largest carmaker.

"While we are cognisant of market share we have been much more cognisant over recent years of our financial credibility," Mr Ford said. "You are going to see more of the same from us: building better residuals [second-hand values], which gives the brand more credibility. We will have more new products which will allow us to be much more aggressive in terms of going after retail customers."
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