World Auto Sales Set to Zoom Ahead

Ford's CEO predicts global sales of 75-85 million in 2011.

After years of gloom driven by the economic downturn, the auto market is speeding ahead and set to grow full throttle around the world, Ford chief executive Alan Mulally said on Jan. 11.

"Clearly we're in a really good growth mode all over the world," he told a conference of industry analysts organized on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show. He predicted global auto sales of some 75 to 85 million vehicles in 2011 compared to about 70 million in 2010, with some 12.5 to 13.5 million sold in the United States, and 14.5 to 15.5 million in Europe.

And America's second leading automaker was well positioned in both the United States and Europe and was "accelerating our growth" in emerging markets, he argued.

Eyeing the European market, Ford's CFO jusLewis Booth said there was "still a need for structural change" as there was "still too much capacity being driven by the national champions."

"We'd expect national governments to come under increasing pressure with their own financial" difficulties at home, he said, and expected they "will become less supportive of that capacity remaining in place."

But Booth predicted "a comfortable year" for Ford in Europe adding the company was going to keep modernizing its products.

"Ford in Europe is no longer burdened with developing products just for itself," he said, "now, collectively we're developing products for all around the world."

On Jan. 10 Ford announced it would hire 7,000 more U.S. workers over the next two years as it pushes into the green car market and the industry continues to recover from the slump.

Promoting its first fully electric car at the Detroit motor show, Ford said it wanted to have a full complement of green cars that are attractive to customers as oil prices rise.

The main thrust of Ford's strategy is on local adaptions of its global models, said Derrick Kuzak, vice president for global product development.

For example in countries with lower incomes, such as India, prices were kept down by adapting the finishing touches to vehicles. Thus interior seat coverings and insulating materials may be of a lesser quality compared to those used in the United States, he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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