Ford Optimistic After 'Remarkable' Turnaround

Credit goes to CEO Alan Mulallly for turnaround, chairman says.

Ford's chairman expressed optimism Thursday about the future of the company his great grandfather founded, as shareholders heaped praise on executives for the automaker's stunning reversal of fortune.

"We face uncertainty in many areas from the price of fuel to the strength of the global economy," Bill Ford told shareholders at Ford's annual meeting.

"But despite these concerns, I'm optimistic about our future."

Ford was among many to praise chief executive Alan Mulally for the number-two US automaker's "remarkable" turnaround after years of bleeding balance sheets and the deepest economic downturn in decades.

Ford 2010 net income was a $21-billion improvement over 2008 and its 2011 first quarter profit of $2.6 billion was its best first quarter performance in more than a decade, Bill Ford noted.

"Obviously we're pleased with these results, but I've worked in the auto industry for 30 years and I know in our business if you're not moving ahead then you're falling behind, and we're not going to let that happen," he told shareholders.

Mulally vowed to "go farther and faster" in implementing the company's plan to pay down debt, accelerate development of its products and improve its competitiveness.

The 100 shareholders gathered at a hotel in Delaware were nearly universal in their praise of Mulally's leadership, including one man who said his help in saving the US auto industry was "a gift to America that will endure for years."

Mulally pledged to continue to work to improve Ford's balance sheet so it could "return to investment grade as quickly as we can."

"Our goal is long-term profitable growth and increasing shareholder value," he said.

"The markets will reflect our performance as we continue."

Copyright by Agence France-Presse

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