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Ford Faces Big Challenges in 2010

(Ford CEO Alan Mulally comments at Detroit Auto Show added in latest update.)

DETROIT (TheStreet) -- It does not take a genius to see that Ford (F) is engaged in a historic turnaround.

Investors pushed the stock up 335% in 2009. Last week, the automakers' December sales report prompted another round of enthusiastic reports from analysts. Already, shares are up about 15% in 2010, after closing at $12.11, up 42 cents, or 3.59% on Monday.

On Tuesday, CEO Alan Mulally reminded analysts at the Detroit Auto Show that Ford has said 2011 will be solidly profitable and that the company will provide 2010 guidance during its fourth quarter earnings call. Of course, the unavoidable question is whether Ford can retain share price momentum following a 335% increase

>>Pictures From the Auto Show

And it is not unreasonable to think analysts will react positively after hearing CEO Alan Mulally speak Tuesday at the Detroit Auto Show. And yet, the question is unavoidable: Can Ford keep it going after a 335% share-price increase?

Mulally says yes. Asked in a recent interview, "What happens when the music stops?" he responded: "The music never stops. World-class companies profitably grow. They go through cycles, but they profitably grow for the long term. We have turned the corner. We have increased market share. We have a product line that we continued to invest in during the worst of times. And now we are going to serve all those customers around the world. We are going to globalize our products, increase the quality and the productivity every year, forever."

Mulally took advantage of a historic catastrophe in the auto industry to reposition Ford as the clear leader among the Detroit Three. Having worked through a half-dozen business cycles during 38 years at Boeing (BA), Mulally knows that the bottom is precisely the time when aggressive companies seize the initiative. "You take decisive action in a downturn," he said. "You accelerate the new products at the worst of times."

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