Report: Ford Prepares to Be Overtaken By Toyota as No. 3 Automaker in U.S.

Ford Motor Co. (F) expects Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. to unseat it next year as the second biggest company behind General Motors Corp. (GM) in the American car market, a position Ford has held since the 1920s, the New York Times said on its Web site on Thursday.

Citing internal Ford projections, the paper says the projections show that company officers believe Ford will permanently fall to third place as soon as January.

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Ford, which is struggling to restructure itself under a plan called The Way Forward, predicted in September that its market share within two years would bottom out at 14 to 15 percent of the market, making it smaller than Toyota is now, the paper said.

While it had not specifically predicted that it would end up behind Toyota, the implication was clear, the New York Times said., a Web site offering car-buying advice, plans to issue its own forecast Thursday that will echo the internal Ford projections, predicting second place for Toyota by mid-2007, the paper said.

The New York Times said that Ford's chief sales statistician, George Pipas, declined to comment Wednesday night on the internal projections. Of the Edmunds forecast, Mr. Pipas said only: "Unless you think Toyota is going to go backwards, it's a good possibility that they will gain market share," according to the paper.

Ford was not immediately available for comment.

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