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Domestic and International Fire Lights Ford's Ignition

Stocks in this article: F GM

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In recent memory, Ford (F) might be best remembered as the only one of the Big Three to refuse government aid and stave off bankruptcy in 2007-08.

Several years later, its shares rallied -- after management righted the ship under CEO Alan Mulally. As often times is the case, the stock got ahead of itself and after briefly touching $18 in January 2011, it tanked below $9 due to severe European losses.

Management has now gotten its act together again and cleaned up Ford's European operations. It seems like everything is finally starting to "click," at just the right time with domestic and international operations. 

European losses continue to dwindle while China has exploded as a huge growth opportunity for Ford. 

The U.S. automaker originally made inroads to China in 1997, but largely ignored the country as strong U.S. sales continued to absorb most of the attention. Before long, it had fallen behind European automakers and General Motors (GM) -- the latter of which is still much more successful in China than its Michigan counterpart. 

For the next 14 years, news of Ford in China was largely unimportant. The company allowed its competitors to cement a commanding lead in the region. In 2012, however, the tone began to drastically change

Mulally's focus on China was that it would be Ford's next great growth opportunity. By sinking over $5 billion into factory builds and assembly plants, the company tripled its third-quarter profit in the Asia Pacific/Africa business segment from last year.  

Investment in the build-up of five new plants wills double Ford's production capacity to 1.7 million units by 2015. The expansion will be necessary to help satisfy the 30 million vehicle sales estimated for the country in 2020 -- more than a 50% increase from 2012. That's nearly double the expectation of the 17 million units for the U.S. in 2020. 

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