Ford Chief Says Bankruptcy Not An Option

Bankruptcy is not an option for the Ford Motor Co., said CEO William Clay Ford. The company's restructuring plan is moving along the outline set out in January, and is making progress, Ford said April 5 on accepting the Automobile Industry Action Group's award as auto industry executive of the year.

Called "The Way Forward," the plan calls for cutting up to 30,000 jobs and closing 14 plants by 2012, Ford said. "The Way Forward plan is pretty strong medicine. Cost-cutting alone isn't going to rescue us. Incremental change isn't going to help."

Ford said he was focused on building a new organization that was more nimble and less bureaucratic and better able to respond to changes in the market. "The motor company no longer had the luxury of relying on multi-year cycle plans," he said.

"The first thing we have to do is get honesty on the table, honesty about our competitive position, the strength or lack thereof of our products, the robustness or lack thereof of our processes and really deal with each other with true honesty," Ford said.

The number two U.S. automaker, Ford on April 3 reported a 4.6% decline in U.S. vehicle sales in March compared with a year ago, as year-to-date volumes were running 2.6% behind the pace of 2005.

Ford also noted that only one part of Ford's business - its North American Automotive Operations - is unprofitable. "We've got one big problem and it's the U.S. auto business, and were going to fix that, and when we fix that, this discussion will disappear," he added.

Ford said U.S. government policy that addressed issues such as health care, pensions and the security and sources of future energy supplies also would help domestic carmakers. "We're competing every day with companies that have different levels of government support," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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