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Ford Sputters to Record Loss


The second biggest U.S. automaker burned through almost $6 billion in cash at the end of 2008, en route to a record loss.

Ford Motor Company says Thursday it lost almost $15 billion last year, about 40 percent of that in the last three months of 2008 alone.

Chief Executive Alan Mulally blamed an "extraordinary slowdown in all major global markets," but the automaker says, unlike its U.S. competitors, it will not need government help to survive.

Still, Ford is doing more to cut costs. The company's financing division, Ford Motor Credit, says it will lay off 1,200 people, about 20 percent of its workforce.

Ford and top U.S. carmaker General Motors also say they are ending a controversial "job bank." The program paid union workers even though they were not working. Chrysler, the number three U.S. carmaker, ended the program earlier this week.

Shutting down the "job bank" is a condition of the $17 billion in loans GM and Chrysler are getting from the government.

Meanwhile, AutoNation, one of the biggest U.S. car retailers, says its fourth-quarter earnings rose even though sales fell by more than one-third.

AutoNation's chief executive, Mike Jackson, tells Reuters the company has also slashed its orders to automakers for new cars by 60 percent for February. He says demand is down, in large part, because potential buyers are having a difficult time getting loans.

The world's top maker of seat belts and airbags is losing money.

Swedish-based Autoliv says it lost about $40 million in the fourth quarter as the auto industry slumped. The company also warns sales could fall by almost half over the first three months of 2009.

U.S. specialty truck-maker Oshkosh says it is also losing money, and will cut about seven percent of its workforce.

And German-based automaker Daimler says it has formally signed a deal with Chinese truck maker Beiqi Foton. The companies say they will work together to produce diesel engines.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.


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