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Bill Ford's top priority: Stop losing market share

Amy Wilson
Automotive News

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. must stop its 10-year U.S. market share slide in 2006, CEO Bill Ford says.

Stabilizing that share will require a strong year for new sedans and crossovers from Ford's domestic brands, Bill Ford told reporters at the Detroit auto show. Ford's domestic brand share fell to 17.4 percent in 2005, down from 25.7 percent of the U.S. market in 1995.

"We have the products now in the part of the market that's growing," Bill Ford said.

The 2006 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr sedans went on sale in late September and got off to a strong start despite some production interruptions. Those sedans "are going to earn their stripes in 2006," Bill Ford said.

He also is expecting a strong debut for two new crossovers, the 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Ford officials won't discuss volume expectations for those crossovers, but they are likely to arrive too late to make a big contribution this year.

Job 1 for the crossover duo at Ford Motor's Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant is in October. That means the Edge and MKX probably will go on sale in November at the earliest.

Stemming Ford Motor's severe market share slide is a key priority, but it's not the company's biggest challenge for 2006. That, Bill Ford says, is making sure its latest restructuring plan works.

"We've got to fix the North American car and truck business," he said.

That operation is bleeding money; it lost $1.4 billion before taxes during the first nine months of 2005. Ford Motor will announce details of a new turnaround plan on Jan. 23. They will include plant closings, executive changes and thousands of job cuts.
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