Ford hopes new models boost U.S. market share
FLAT ROCK, Michigan
FLAT ROCK, Michigan (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) may recover some of its lost market share in the United States with its upcoming Fusion midsize sedan and the newly launched Escape crossover, a top executive at the automaker said on Monday.
The two models compete in segments that account for one of three auto sales to U.S. consumers, Ford Americas President Mark Fields said. He described the midsize sedan segment as "ground zero" for the U.S. auto industry.
"With these new products we'll have the opportunity to gain share," Fields told reporters at the renamed Flat Rock Assembly Plant. "But we're not going to go after share for share itself. We want a good profitable business."
Through August of this year, Ford's sales have grown 6 percent compared with a year ago, while overall industry sales have shot up nearly 15 percent, according to Autodata. Its U.S. market share in August was 15.3 percent, down from 16.3 percent in August 2011.
Ford has lost share because it cannot build enough cars and trucks to satisfy consumer demand and consumers are buying fewer pickup trucks than in years past, Fields said.
"Some segmentation has affected us. Full-size pickups haven't picked up as much as they have in the past," he said.
The 2013 Fusion sedan, which will be launched in the United States this fall, is currently built in Mexico. It competes against the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.
Next year, Ford will begin building the gasoline-powered version of its Fusion sedan at Flat Rock. The No. 2 U.S. automaker will begin hiring for second shift in the second quarter of 2013.
The Flat Rock plant was previously called AutoAlliance International when the factory was jointly owned and operated by Ford and Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T). The two automakers are in the process of ending their 20-year partnership although Mazda still owns a 50 percent stake in the plant.
Ford and Mazda are exploring ways to unwind that stake, Fields said.
Mazda moved production of its Mazda6 midsize car to Japan last month and Ford has taken management control of the plant, which will be integrated into its finances.
"It's a still a joint venture and we're looking at various possibilities that we're not going to talk about this point," Fields told reporters.
"Right now it's a joint venture," he said. "Who knows, going forward? But we're studying those things right now."
Mazda spokesman Jeremy Barnes declined to comment on the automaker's plans.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; editing by Matthew Lewis)
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