World auto sales set to zoom ahead: Ford CEO


DETROIT, Michigan, 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 Tuesday. “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. 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. Detroit has been in the pall of the decline of the Big Three U.S. manufacturers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — amid a steady loss of market share to Asian rivals and the worst economic downtown in decades. But after hitting rock bottom in 2009 with sales at their lowest level since the recession of 1983 and after GM and Chrysler were forced into a government-backed bankruptcy, sales began to improve in 2010 and the leaner Detroit Three have begun to reap the rewards. Eyeing the European market, Ford vice president and chief financial officer Lewis 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. On Monday 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.