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Ford CEO: No more closures, cuts loom

From usatoday| April 09 , 2007

Ford Motor (F) won't cut more jobs or close more factories in North America beyond those already announced, CEO Alan Mulally said Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show.
Mulally acknowledged that some analysts have speculated that Ford will need to get even smaller. "There's a lot of work we need to do over the next three years (of the restructuring plan), but we're just about right," he said.

He said Ford should be able to hold 14% to 15% of U.S. sales after slicing low-margin sales to fleets to 3 percentage points of the total share from 5 percentage points last year. Ford's share of new vehicle sales so far this year is 16.4%.

Also at the show Wednesday, Bob Lutz, General Motors' vice chairman for global product development, said he would be happy if GM's U.S. share stabilized at about 23% of the market with minimal incentives and fleet sales. GM's share is 23.1% so far this year.

"The U.S. market is not going to grow much anymore anyway. … (The U.S.) is one of the smaller parts of our business," Lutz said, citing greater potential for growth in countries including Dubai, Russia and Ukraine.

The Ford reorganization plan envisions slicing 25,000 to 30,000 hourly jobs and 10,000 white-collar jobs by the end of this year. So far, 38,000 hourly workers have signed up to leave, but Ford expects some to change their minds before the deadline.

The plan also envisions closing 16 factories by 2012; nine have been named, and an SUV plant in St. Louis and car factory in Atlanta have been closed. Four more are to be shut next year.

Mulally also said:

?"Jag's not for sale," seeming to resolve the issue of whether luxury brand Jaguar is on the bubble. He said the brand, which hasn't made money for Ford, has "a really good plan" to change that.

Ford recently sold most of its Aston Martin brand to help raise cash.

?He's been selling cars in dealerships to ensure he knows that end of the business. Mulally was an executive vice president at Boeing, the airplane company, before taking the Ford CEO job last September. It's his first auto job.

He recounted nearly closing the sale of a new F-250 pickup, except for a dispute about whether floor mats would cost extra and the buyer's wife's concern about whether the new 6.4-liter diesel engine would be more reliable than the 6-liter in the previous version.

Mulally said he called the wife: "The CEO is assuring her it will be reliable." Then, "As a closer, I threw in the floor mats."

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