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Ford scales back global market share forecast

Reuters

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday lowered its global market share projections for the year and said it will close seven North American plants between 2010 and 2012 as part of its previously announced restructuring plan.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Ford said rising fuel prices and new-product launches from other automakers may affect its traditional areas of strength -- full-sized trucks and SUVs.

"We anticipate that our market share will be down or flat for the full year," the company said in the filing. Ford had earlier expected its market share to be flat to improved.

The filing gave no specific market share figures, and a spokeswoman said the outlook was for global market share.

In the United States, Ford's largest market, the company saw its share decline to 18.2 percent last year from 19.3 percent the previous year. The company has pledged to slow the costly erosion in its U.S. market share this year.

A rebound in the U.S. market is key to turning around Ford's money losing North American auto operations, where it is cutting 14 plants and up to 30,000 jobs.

Ford said in its filing that seven of those manufacturing facilities would be idled between 2010 and 2012. It did not identify the location of those plants. The other seven plants are expected to be idled by 2008.

The company estimates charges of up to $600 million on a discounted basis for employee costs as a result of idling the seven plants between 2010 and 2012, according to the filing.

Ford also said it plans to record special charges of $3.3 billion in 2006, down from its previous forecast of $3.4 billion.

The company refined its estimate after discussions with the SEC regarding a $100 million charge related to health care, Ford spokeswoman Becky Sanch said.

Ford still plans to book the expense but will no longer treat it as a special charge, Sanch said.

The automaker booked $2.5 billion in special charges in the first quarter.

Ford also said in the filing that the new corporate average fuel economy standards for light trucks represent a significant challenge for the company.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in March raised the fuel standard for SUVs, pickups and vans -- the light truck class - by 1.9 mpg to 24.1 mpg between the 2008 and 2011 model years.

Ford said in the SEC filing that three petitions have been filed seeking judicial review of the light truck rule, including one filed by 10 states, the District of Columbia and the city of New York.

"These cases allege that the new standards for light trucks are below what is technologically possible and required by law," Ford said in the filing.
 
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