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Ford Leads Turnaround for US Auto Industry


The Ford Motor Company says its net income rose nearly 70 percent in the third quarter, its best performance in nearly a decade. The US automaker easily beat Wall Street expectations, reporting its sixth straight quarter of growth with net profits of $1.7 billion between July and September. General Motors and Chrysler are also expected to show gains when they report earnings next week. It's a sharp turnaround from just a year ago when two of the big three US automakers were in bankruptcy proceedings.

After shedding billions of dollars in debt, analysts say both General Motors and Chrysler are poised for a comeback.

Ford, the only US automaker to refuse a government bailout, has posted the strongest numbers, with six straight quarters of growth.

Despite a slowdown in its worldwide sales, Ford CEO Alan Mulally says aggressive cost cutting has helped the company boost profits. "We've come through this horrible recession. We kept investing in the future, we have the products that people really do want and value, and now we are switching over to profitable growth mode which is great for everybody," he said.

Together, the nation's big three automakers expect to invest $2 billion in their Michigan operations - thanks in part to tax breaks from the state. Auto analyst Jeremy Anwyl says the incentives could create as many as 2,300 new jobs. "The risk is if they don't offer these incentives that other states will and these jobs will go elsewhere," he said.

The United Auto Workers says laid off workers will be called back first, after which new employees will be hired at lower wages negotiated by the union. UAW representative Jimmy Settles calls it a "win-win" situation. "It's better than layoffs. We get a chance to have additional members, which mean additional families paying taxes, paying into the community, buying cars, being consumers -- so that's always a plus," he said.

Especially for thousands of workers - laid off after automakers closed plants last year. "Excited to be home and excited to have a job that I know I can stay here and have the stability with Ford Motor Company. This is it. This is home and we're not going anywhere, we're here to stay," he said.

Despite all the talk of a comeback, Chrysler has yet to post a profit. And GM, once the world's largest automaker, remains partially government-owned. Analysts expect auto sales in the US this year will also fall short of the average 16 million units sold before the start of the recession.  

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