Ford on fast track with recast efforts

by 25 Sep 2006

Ford Motor Company has announced that it will increase the pace of new product launches as it accelerates its restructuring plan, and is considering investing up to $1 billion (Rs 4,650 crore) in its Michigan factories. Ford, which is battling shrinking US market share and rising costs, has said it will announce its accelerated restructuring plan by the end of September to respond to the weakening demand for trucks and sport utility vehicles in the US market.

The automaker, which posted a loss for the first half of the year, is in the midst of closing 14 plants and cutting up to 30,000 factory jobs to return its North American unit to profitability by 2008. Ford said its potential investment would be used to expand flexible manufacturing at several Michigan facilities and also in research and development of future products, advanced powertrain technologies and hybrid vehicles.

Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas operations, said that even as the company reduced its overall capacity in line with demand it was not retreating one bit from the necessary investments to bring out more products for its customers. Fields, who is in charge of turning around the region, said the automaker will give more details on the accelerated restructuring plan in September. He said the company has nine new Ford and Lincoln-Mercury models going on sale in the next six months, including the Ford Shelby GT in January 2007.

Ford also plans to launch in 2008 the Lincoln MKS flagship sedan, based on the concept vehicle shown at the North American International Auto Show in January. Fields said one feature Ford plans to introduce in its cars is a capless fuel filler, which avoids the inconvenience of forgetting to put the gas cap back on after refuelling. The executive said the industry was witnessing a "tectonic" shift as consumer tastes change, marked by a shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles. From the Indian viewpoint, Ford has had a good run with the recently launched Fiesta , especially the diesel version, which has been notching up good numbers.

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