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Ford sees more declines in U.S. market share

Reuters

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. market share is likely to decline further before stabilizing, the automaker's chief sales analyst, George Pipas, said on Wednesday.

"We will likely continue to see a market share decline to some point," Pipas told analysts at a Prudential transportation conference in New York. He did not elaborate on how much more share the automaker will lose.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker, which last month unveiled a comprehensive restructuring plan for its money-losing North American vehicle operations, has seen a protracted decline in U.S. market share.

It ended 2005 with a share of 17.4 percent, excluding its luxury brands, the lowest level since the late 1920s, as sales of traditional truck-based SUVs have sputtered in the face of high gasoline prices.

Pipas said the automaker's goal this year is to reduce the rate of its share decline.

"Once we get the rate of decline starting to narrow on a year-over-year basis, then we can be thinking about stabilizing," Pipas said. "But right now we don't have that situation."

Ford CEO Bill Ford told reporters last month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that the automaker could stabilize its market share in 2006.

"Stabilizing market share is an element of the plan," Pipas said, referring to the company's restructuring strategy, dubbed "Way Forward," which calls for shutting 14 plants and cutting up to 30,000 jobs in North America.

But Ford is not necessarily planning to stabilize its U.S. market share at the 2005 level, he added.

Ford and larger rival General Motors are facing strong competition from Japanese automakers, led by Toyota Motor Corp.

Toyota is gearing up to introduce its redesigned Tundra pickup truck, a segment that is currently led by Ford's F-series trucks.

Pipas said he sees another strong year for the F series, which had sales of over 900,000 last year.

"The full-sized truck market is one of the most, if not the most, loyal segments in the industry," he said.
 
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