Consumers push hard on Ford’s accelerator

Ford Motor Co. may not be the emblem of a thriving, 21st century American auto company. But it’s moving in that direction.

And, unlike General Motors and Chrysler, it is doing so without any bailout money from the federal government.

This week, Ford reported it had earned a third-quarter profit of more than $300 million and it expects to be solidly profitable by 2011. Moreover, Ford’s sales jumped 21 percent from September to October. Sales were up 3.3 percent over the same period last year. Its North American revenue surged 21 percent.

GM also posted a significant sales gain in October, 4.7 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. But it had to offer steep discounts to attract customers, much more so than Ford.

Chrysler, sadly, saw its sales this October drop 30 percent from the same month in 2008.

Some consumers may be showing their disapproval of government bailouts by purchasing only Ford products. There has been a concerted effort on the Internet and among some talk-radio hosts to encourage a boycott of GM and Chrysler.

But Ford has also substantially revamped its product lines in the past few years, making them more appealing to consumers. Fuel-efficient models such as the Fusion and Focus, and the popular Escape SUV have won significant public support. The company’s pickup trucks remain as popular as any on the planet. And, according to Consumers Reports, Ford’s overall vehicle reliability has improved significantly in the past few years.

Additionally, the company began to substantially slim down its work force and mothball some manufacturing plants even before the recession hit. That has helped the company turn a profit while selling fewer vehicles than it once did.

Americans have every reason to hope that General Motors and Chrysler will also rebound financially. They remain important parts of this nation’s economy, providing high-paying jobs and American-made products.

But Ford’s recent success has demonstrated that billions of dollars of taxpayer bailout funds are not necessarily the key ingredients in turning around the American auto industry. A willingness to make necessary budget cuts, and a response to the market that includes producing the sort of efficient and reliable vehicles that consumers want are more important.

Congratulations, Ford Motor Co.


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