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By Amy Wilson
Automotive News

Ford Motor Co. aims to break its U.S. full-sized pickup sales record in 2004. And it wants to sell more than 1 million F-series units in 2005 if the industry stays strong.

Ford Division President Steve Lyons says the company will sell at least 912,000 F-series pickups this year, barring an industry falloff.

That would top its previous annual record of 911,597 in 2001.

Ford will use incentives on the redesigned F-150 to accomplish that, and rebates are likely to rise from current levels, he said.

Ford started the year with a $1,500 cash rebate on the regular-cab F-150 and $1,000 on the SuperCab. The popular SuperCrew, which is running at about 50 percent of sales, has no rebate. The F-150 rebate on average is close to $700, Lyons said.

"Now the issue is what is it going to take to sell the 912,000-plus, and my suspicion is that it will be more than the $600 or $700 average that we have today," Lyons said. "But I think it will be substantially less than our competitors."

Lyons wouldn't put a limit on high F-150 incentives could go in 2004. But he did say the division intends to vary incentives by region, body style and time of year to maximize revenue.

Ford has the capacity to beat its record because a new assembly plant in Dearborn, Mich., will start producing the redesigned F-150 around May. That will give Ford three U.S. plants assembling the redesigned truck and a fourth plant assembling other F-series models.

A fifth plant, in Oakville, Ontario, will produce the previous-generation F-150, sold as the F-150 Heritage, until about July.

In 2005, Ford will have a full year of production from the Dearborn plant, and that will provide the capacity necessary to sell more than 1 million full-sized pickups in the United States, Lyons said.

But he added that industry volume needs to stay high, at 2003 levels or more, if Ford is to hit that target.

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