Ford Absent From Auto Bailout but May Be Big Winner

As the lone Big Three automaker passing on a federal bailout, Ford won't have to undergo an intrusive government review of its books and its business plans to become a viable company in order to qualify for — and keep — the low-interest loans authorized Friday by the Bush administration.

At the same time, the Dearborn, Mich., car company is likely to benefit from many of the concessions that General Motors and Chrysler exact from the suppliers, unions, dealers and debt holders shared by all three companies.

"The clear winner in this game is Ford," Kimberly Rodriguez, a principal at Grant Thornton consulting firm and an adviser to Ford senior management, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview Friday.

The Bush administration said it would provide a total of $17.4 billion in loans for GM and Chrysler. As part of the bailout, GM and Chrysler will have to open their books to the government and meet restructuring targets such as reducing their debt and hammering out deals with the United Auto Workers to cut labor costs.

Ford still is seeking a $9 billion line of credit from the government, though it adds it may not need to tap it. In addition, Ford wants $5 billion from the Energy Department program.

Most experts agree that Ford is in better shape than GM and Chrysler, in large part because it mortgaged almost all of its assets in 2006 to raise $24.5 billion.