Ford’s recent navigation of financial shoals is paying off big-time. The Detroit automaker took a different tack than its rivals, which sought aid from the federal government and shelter in bankruptcy court.
It’s on course to grab the brass ring in 2010, becoming No. 1 in U.S. auto sales. An $18-billion low interest loan in 2006 — when the company mortgaged itself, including its iconic blue oval insignia — is allowing Ford to remake operations. It’s slashing costs and developing common bodies, braking and wiring systems for its vehicles worldwide and putting in place new flexible assembly lines that let plants shift rapidly from making one model to another. Plus, Ford is committed to new model development — pledging to revamp its entire fleet by early 2011, and then repeating the feat in a few years.
As a result, by year-end 2010, Ford’s U.S. sales will likely edge out both General Motors’ and Toyota’s, but it’ll be a photo finish. The best bet: Toyota will come in second and GM will slip to third. Already, Ford’s share of U.S. auto sales is climbing. It’s likely to top 16% this year and be a hair over 17% next, mainly at the expense of GM and Chrysler. A market share gain of one percentage point reverses a slide that had plagued the firm for more than a decade.