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Touting $2B profit, Ford drives home its status as automaker that didn't fail


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Touting $2B profit, Ford drives home its status as automaker that didn't fail

America’s renewed enthusiasm for Ford continues unabated, as reflected in today's eye-popping numbers from the Dearborn automaker’s first-quarter report.

While an improving U.S. economy pushed up the pace of overall car and truck sales by 14% in early 2010, Ford’s deliveries in North America zoomed 56% -- up to 547,000 vehicles from 350,000 in the first three months of 2009.

The bottom-line result: a $2-billion pretax profit, reversing a loss of the same size a year ago.

Ford’s top executives know they’re getting a lot of credit from American consumers for avoiding the government rescue and bankruptcies that kept crosstown rivals General Motors and Chrysler alive last year. And Ford doesn’t want people to forget that, as the crisis of 2008 fades into the rear-view mirror and GM airs TV ads heralding its repayment of loans to the U.S. and Canadian governments.

“People want to be associated with a going concern, somebody that cares about them, that’s going to be there for them,” Alan Mulally, Ford’s president and CEO, said today in a conference call with reporters and investment analysts

“And clearly the fact that we have done this, that we respected the shareholders, we respected the bondholders, we respected everybody that had invested in Ford, and now we’re creating a very strong business, I think that that resonates very well with our consumers,” Mulally said.

Indeed it does

Mulally didn’t mention GM and Chrysler by name.

But he didn’t have to name the competitors who couldn’t survive as a “going concern” without a government lifeline. He didn’t have to single out another company for wiping out its former shareholders and squeezing its bondholders, while Ford “respected” its investors. We get his drift.

And people will continue to get the message, because Ford will continue to drive it home.

If that seems like Ford is playing hardball, well, it is. The same way that GM, and eventually Ford and others, played hardball by pouncing on Toyota’s recent rash of recalls with incentive programs aimed directly at winning back Toyota customers.

Ford, by remaining independent as it boosted car quality, capitalized on the public goodwill by converting showroom traffic into sales growth so strong that its market share gain is the best since 1977.

Further improvement will depend on how Mulally & Co. deliver on his claim that “we have continued to create a very strong business for the long term.”



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