Ford: Still on Track for Profits in 2008

Ford Motor Co. (F) is on track to meet its goal of making its North American auto business profitable by 2008 and remains committed to that target, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

"We remain very, very committed to this," Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said at an event to announce the company's upcoming vehicle line-up and a push to offer more fuel-efficient vehicles.

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The comments came after Ford stocks and bonds came under renewed selling pressure on speculation that the company could fall short of its 2008 target, which is part of a sweeping restructuring plan announced in January.

Bloomberg News on Wednesday quoted unnamed officials at the No. 2 U.S. automaker as saying Ford might not meet the target because of higher gasoline prices and declining sales of sport utility vehicles.

Fields acknowledged that the company faced difficulties in some areas of its turnaround plan, dubbed "Way Forward," but said the automaker was on track overall.

"I am happy where we are right now. In some areas we are ahead; in some areas we are behind; but we are where we expected," he said.

Fields has spearheaded Ford's restructuring plan, under which the company plans to close 14 plants and cut up to 30,000 factory jobs.

Ford has faced criticism for relying too heavily on sales of SUVs and trucks amid signs that U.S. car buyers are increasingly shifting to more fuel-efficient vehicles. It has also been accused of lacking a clear strategy for its upcoming vehicles.

On Wednesday, Ford said its 2007 model-year lineup would include five additional vehicles with more fuel-efficient six-speed transmissions, including the Edge crossover, which will go on sale in November.

Ford shares fell 5 percent on Tuesday to touch their lowest level in more than 13 years. The shares rose 8 cents to $6.48 in early Wednesday trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Through Tuesday, Ford shares had fallen 17 percent since the start of the year. By contrast, General Motors Corp. (GM) shares have gained 32 percent as investors have grown more confident that its own turnaround plan is gaining traction.

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