26 October 2010

October US Auto Sales to Be Highest in 2010: Ford Exec


Ford Motor President of the Americas Mark Fields said October U.S. auto industry light vehicle sales will be near 12 million vehicles, which would be the highest monthly sales of the year.

The October sales rate shows the U.S. auto industry is slowly recovering, Fields said.

"My prediction is something around the 12 million range," said Fields, referring to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate for sales.

Fields was speaking to reporters after announcing Ford will spend $850 million for improvements to at least four Michigan Ford plants, spurred by $400 million in state tax relief.

If U.S. industry sales come in near 12 million on an annualized basis as Ford expects, "that would be another evidence point that the economy and consumers are slowly coming back," said Fields.

The U.S. auto industry experienced annual sales topping 16 million for most of the past decade, until 2008 when sales began to fall and in 2009 when they reached 27-year lows.

Last week, J.D. Power and Associates said 2010 annual sales would be near 11.5 million, up from 10.4 million vehicles in 2009. But it cut its 2011 sales forecast to 12.9 million from a previous forecast of 13.2 million vehicles.

"We had a good, balanced month in terms of our products," said Fields, which he said would continue what he termed a good mix of pickup truck and car sales in recent months.

Last week, Barclays said Ford's third-quarter earnings to be announced on Tuesday will be boosted by strong sales of profitable pickup trucks, including heavy duty pickups.

The plant improvements will mean jobs for about 1,200 people, Fields said. Of those, 900 will be hourly workers and 300 will be salaried. The salaried positions will mainly be engineers and at least 200 of the hourly workers are now laid off and will be called back to duty.

Fields said it was too early to tell how many hourly positions will be new hires working at the new, lower wage near $14 per hour. That would be about half of average wage of most hourly workers represented by the United Auto Workers union.

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