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New York Auto Show Opens on Upbeat Note - 2003-04-17


The president of the Ford Motor Company, Nick Scheele, opened the New York International Auto Show Wednesday with an upbeat look at the auto industry.

Ford President Nick Scheele says the U.S. auto industry has weathered the downturn in the U.S. economy comparatively well, but an accurate assessment of the industry is not easy to make.

"The economy and the entire manufacturing sector has been in a rough patch for awhile," he said. "But keep in mind that the question of how the auto industry is doing today depends just on who you ask, and how you ask the question."

Mr. Scheele says, for U.S. car buyers it is a "boom-time." They have more choice than ever before, he says, and cars are safer, more efficient and cheaper than they have been since 1978.

He says international competition in the auto market is tough.

"The same things that are delighting customers are turning the auto industry into a fiercely competitive global dogfight," Mr. Scheele said. "Whereas automakers used to compete in just a handful of segments, the last decade has seen the rise of full-line automakers going head-to-head on every product, in every mainstream category and in the niche markets as well. Who could have imagined 10 years ago that Porche would build a sport utility vehicle, or that BMW would market a front-drive, sub-compact car under a British brand name? Who could have predicted that Nissan would market a pick-up truck?"

Ford, America's second largest automaker behind General Motors, has reported net income of nearly $900 million for the first quarter of this year, an improvement over last year's first quarter, where it reported a loss of $1.1 billion.

Mr. Scheele says Ford, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, will introduce 20 new models a year over the next five years.

Twelve new Ford models are among the hundreds of state-of-the-art automobiles on display at the New York International Auto Show. More than one million people attended the event last year, and organizers are expecting at least that many this year.

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