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The ‘Way Forward’ looks a ways off

Amy Scott Jul 20, 2006

The ‘Way Forward’ looks a ways off

Amy Scott Jul 20, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Ford saw the handwriting on the wall back in January. Sales were down. Losses were mounting. Something had to be done. So Chairman and CEO Bill Ford came up with a plan. The “Way Forward” he called it. Cut 30,000 jobs. Close 14 plants. Claw and scratch your way back to black ink within two years. Somewhere, though, Ford lost its way. The company announced today it lost more than $120 million last quarter. And the Way Forward’s starting to look like wishful thinking. Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.

AMY SCOTT: Ford lost nearly $800 million in North America in the second quarter, but that’s better than this time last year. In a conference call with analysts, CEO Bill Ford said the Way Forward plan is on track.

BILL FORD: When we announced the Way Forward in January we said our goal was to reduce the rate of decline of our US market share this year. Which we’ve done.

But many expect the US economy to slow down in the next several months. John Novak with research firm Morningstar says Ford could have bigger problems ahead.

JOHN NOVAK: The consumer is feeling a lot of pressure. Interest rates have risen, gas prices are . . . have risen as well. They need to move very quickly, not just to stay ahead of the competition. But they also need to prepare for what could be a tougher sort of macro-economic environment out there.

Since drivers started snubbing gas-hungry SUVs, auto-makers have pinned their hopes on the crossover. That’s sort of a car dressed up like an SUV. Ford is a few months away from releasing two new designs. But industry consultant Joe Philippi says the Ford Edge and the Lincoln Mark-X lack an important feature — an extra row of seats.

JOE PHILIPPI: Today, in the crossover market, it seems almost part of the price of admission that you have three rows of seats. And these two vehicles are only gonna have two.

With the stakes so high and competition only growing, Philippi says those features count. Ford said today it will accelerate its plans to cut costs and develop new products. Watch for details in a few months.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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