Ford Seeks to Gain Amid Rivals' Pain

Ford Motor Co. is preparing an effort to gain market share while its two main rivals are bogged down in bankruptcy and restructuring.

Ford, the only one of Detroit's Big Three that didn't need a bailout from the federal government, plans to increase production of cars and trucks in the third quarter by about 10% from the level of a year ago, a company official said. It will be Ford's first significant production increase in almost two years.

In contrast, General Motors Corp., which is expected to file for Chapter 11 protection Monday, and Chrysler LLC, which is nearing the end of its bankruptcy reorganization, are planning to shut down their plants for nearly all of the third quarter. The difference in production plans will give Ford a chance to push sales through the prime summer selling months while GM and Chrysler focus on their internal issues.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to separate us from our other domestic competitors," said a person familiar with the matter at Ford. "No one is going to gift-wrap it for us. You have to deliver the product people want to buy. That said, you have to take this historic opportunity to grab market share."

Ford has seen a gain in retail market share in six of the past seven months and expects to see another boost when May auto sales are reported Tuesday. As of April 30, Ford's U.S. market share was 13%, according to the company.

In the third quarter, Ford plans to produce 150,000 cars and 310,000 trucks for a total of 460,000 vehicles, according to company officials. A year ago it built 184,000 cars and 234,000 trucks for a total of 418,000. The bulk of the increase stems from high production of the company's highly profitable F-150 pickup trucks.

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