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Sun February 1, 2004

LAS VEGAS, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. said on Sunday that production capacity will limit sales of its F-Series full-size pickups this year, although it still plans to sell a record number of the highly-profitable trucks.
Ford has said its future goal is to sell about 1 million of the F-Series trucks a year in the U.S. market, bolstered by demand for the all-new F-150 that went into production last September.

But Ford Division President Steve Lyons, speaking on the sidelines of the annual convention of the National Automobile Dealers Association, told reporters that target won't be met in 2004.

"Frankly we'll run out of production capacity at some point," Lyons said.

"Could we do a million? No, there isn't enough (capacity) to do it this year."

Lyons said the constraint on production was partly due to the fact that Ford's new assembly plant in Dearborn, Michigan, the Detroit suburb where the automaker is headquartered, won't be up and running until late May or early June.

Additionally, he noted that production of older model F-150s, the so-called Heritage edition long touted as America's best selling vehicle, will be phased out by no later than July.

Despite the constraints, Lyons said Ford was determined to break the F-Series sales record it set in 2001, when it sold more than 911,500 of the trucks that generate a huge chunk of its automotive profits.

"We are going to set a full-size pickup sales record this year and that means we are going to sell 912,000 or more F-Series," he said.

He added that F-Series sales, depending on overall industry demand, could actually top out somewhere around 925,000 units.
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