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Ford bullish on North America investments

Keywords: Tags  Ford Motor, Alan Mulally, Robert Shanks, North American investments, new products, market share, auto sales projections, Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — Ford Motor Co. will continue to invest in the United States and other parts of North America as auto sales increase and as its market share rises incrementally, executives say.

"In the U.S., we continue to add jobs, announcing an investment of $200 million and the addition of 450 jobs starting in 2014 as part of our plan to move EcoBoost engine production for North America to Cleveland from Valencia, Spain," president and chief executive officer Alan Mulally said during Ford’s earnings conference call.

"North America experienced very strong growth in the first quarter, with wholesale volume up 17 percent from a year ago and revenue improving 20 percent," executive vice president and chief financial officer Robert L. Shanks said. "The volume improvement mainly reflects higher U.S. industry sales, increasing from 14.5 million to 15.6 million units; favorable changes in dealers’ stocks; and higher U.S. market share."

Ford’s North American pretax profit of $2.4 billion was a company record for any quarter.

The automaker projects 2013 global gross domestic product growth of 2 to 3 percent, with worldwide industry sales of 80 million to 85 million units. The U.S. economy is forecast to grow 2 to 2.5 percent, with industry sales supported by continuing improvement in the housing sector and replacement demand as vehicles age.

"We expect full-year industry volume to range from 15 million to 16 million units in the United States, Europe to be 13 million to 13.5 million (units) and China to range from 19.5 million to 21.5 million units. We project full-year market share to increase compared with 2012 in the United States and China, and to be about equal to last year in Europe," the company said. "Overall, we expect 2013 to be another strong year for Ford Motor Co. as we continue to work towards our mid-decade guidance."

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker will continue to invest in manufacturing capacity and people "because we believe we have great growth opportunities not only in places like Asia/Pacific and some of the other growing markets of the world but here in North America," Mulally said, adding that the types of new products Ford is making are gaining acceptance. "We think it’s the right call to make to continue to invest in future growth."

The company earlier this week posted first-quarter net income of $1.61 billion, up 15.4 percent year on year, on sales that grew 10.5 percent to $35.8 billion (, April 24).

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