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Ford Executive Talks About Automaker's Plans for Future


Two days after the Ford Motor Company announced plant closings and huge job cuts, one of the company's top executives visited Washington to begin the public process of "selling" Ford's plans for the future.

Anne Stevens is the highest ranking woman in the automobile industry. As executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Americas. Ms. Stevens is co-author of Ford's latest restructuring plan titled "The Way Forward."

Ms. Stevens was in Washington to talk with the automotive media about how Ford intends to deal with the huge financial difficulties plaguing America's first mass-market automaker. In general, she said company officials are satisfied with initial reaction to the restructuring plan.

"We're pleased with a lot of the comments we have gotten, that it's a plan that was well thought-out and it's a holistic plan," she said. "The thing that we're the most confident with is that we've got the leadership team that will execute the plan. That's the most important thing. You can have a plan and if you can't execute it, then what good is the plan?"

One of the truths that automakers live by is that there is no success without attractive, exciting products to sell. With the relatively high price of gasoline and changing public tastes, Ford - which depended for years on its truck and sport utility vehicle sales for its profits - is delighted to find its new Fusion mid-size sedan, as Ms. Stevens said, "flying out of the showrooms".

"Clearly, with all the issues that we have - global environment concerns as well as looking at dependence on foreign oil, we see consumers moving back to the car segment," she said. "And so the Fusion for us is extremely important and we're happy to have it out there."

The Ford executive acknowledges that Detroit's so-called "Big Three" - General Motors, Ford and the Chrysler division of Daimler-Chrysler - are no longer so big. She refers to the fierce battle for world-wide sales in the auto industry now encompassing "The Big Six" - the Detroit manufacturers plus Japan's Toyota, Nissan and Honda.

"We've got to face up to the reality of the marketplace," she told reporters. "It's a Big Six shootout, and we have to have a plan - to fight and to take back what's ours," she said.

Company chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. said recently his company is "in crisis, not chaos." The restructuring plan - the second in four years - is now in place. The next few months will tell us whether "The Way Forward" sets the Ford Motor Company on the way back - or is just another dead-end.

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