DETROIT Jan 14 Ford Motor Co's top
executives predicted steady, consistent growth in the U.S. auto
market this year and remained confident in the company's
earnings prospects despite increasingly tough competition in the
U.S. auto sales reached their highest level since 2007 last
year and industry analysts and executives expect the region to
make further gains in 2013. As the European auto market weakens,
the U.S. market is emerging as the most attractive region for
Last week's decision by the second-largest U.S. automaker
recent to double its quarterly dividend signaled confidence in
its earnings outlook, Ford Chairman Bill Ford said on the
sidelines of the Detroit auto show on Monday.
"I think our plan is robust enough that we'll get through
any dislocation that we're going through," Bill Ford told
reporters after an event to unveil the Lincoln MKC compact
Ford expects to lose at least $3 billion in Europe over the
combined 2012 and 2013 period, plagued by an economic slowdown
and underused factories in the region.
The automaker is now seeking to turn around its European
operations based largely on its strategy in the U.S. market. The
company is also growing in China and overhauling its upscale
Lincoln brand to attract younger, more affluent buyers.
Ford executives said financial performance has been strong,
pointing to record profit margins in North America during the
"Not every part of the business is where we ultimately want
it to be, but overall, the company is performing very well,"
Bill Ford said.
"I think it's a signal of confidence in the company in where
we've been but more importantly where we're going," he added,
referring to the company's decision last Thursday to raise the
Analysts, on average, project the automaker to post an
annual profit of $1.34 per share in 2012, with earnings rising
in 2013, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Ford reports
fourth-quarter earnings later this month.
Ford shares were up a penny at $14.01 on Monday afternoon,
well off the 12-month low of $8.82 last August.
On Monday, Ford showcased a concept version of its Lincoln
MKC compact crossover designed to attract a younger buyer to the
brand, whose buyers tend to be around 65 years old. The MKC
targets one of the fastest-growing segments in both the U.S. and
Chinese auto industries.
Several auto executives said they projected the U.S. market
to become more competitive this year, as European demand
softens. Ford's chief operating officer, Mark Fields, predicted
"steady, consistent" growth in the United States.
"A lot of competitors are looking at this market as a
healthy one and directing more of their resources and
potentially more of their production here," Fields told
reporters on Monday. "So we have to guard against that."