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February 27, 2003
BY BILL KOENIG
BLOOMBERG

New York -- Ford Motor Co., the world's second-largest automaker, will price its redesigned F-150 pickup close to Chevrolet Silverado models made by General Motors Corp. to protect the market share of one of its most profitable autos.

James O'Connor, the executive who oversees Ford's North American marketing and sales, declined to provide details to investors at a conference in New York. The F-150 accounts for about 60 percent of sales of F-Series light trucks, the best-selling line of vehicles in the U.S.

"You've got to price them relatively close to each other," O'Connor said. "We don't intend to flinch; we intend to be the market leader."

Ford may offer rebates or low-interest loans to lure buyers for the truck, he said. "It depends on the economy at the time of the launch."

The 2004 F-150 is Ford's most important vehicle introduction this year, as the company counts on new models and cost-cutting to generate $7 billion in pretax profit by 2005. It plans to produce the first new pickup on June 16 to coincide with the company's 100th anniversary, O'Connor said.

The new model will cost $1,000 and $1,400 more to produce than the 2003 model, O'Connor said.

General Motors, the world's biggest automaker, has used rebates and no-interest loans to increase its share of the U.S. market and is seeking to increase truck sales. Prices for the Silverado range between $19,365 and $46,555.

Shares of Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford rose 3 cents to $8.11 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. General Motors stock fell 27 cents to $33.38.

O'Connor also said industrywide U.S. February sales won't be as high as January, O'Connor said. Ford's share of the U.S. market for this month will "be at least equal to or up from last year."

Sales of cars and light trucks totaled 1.09 million in January, according to Autodata Corp. Ford had 20.4 percent of the U.S. market in February 2002, including sales of its European-based luxury brands.
 

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