) -- Alan Mulally fixed


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, but he did not fix the world economy, and Ford paid for that in the fourth quarter.

The automaker reported Friday that, during the quarter, it underperformed in every region of the world except for the U.S. It lost money in Asia and Europe and its earnings fell in South America. Shares fell about 4%, to $12.21, after Ford missed estimates of 25 cents by 5 cents.

Ford has been transformed under Alan Mulally, but that doesn't mean it can totally avoid negative economic trends.

The truth is that the U.S. automakers are recovering very nicely, but these sprawling international companies cannot get too far ahead of world economies. Sure, it is great to be a far-flung global enterprise, taking advantage of all the growth trends around the world. But globalization also means sensitivity to every problem that crops up.


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has exactly the same problem. In November, on the company's third-quarter earnings call, CFO Dan Akerson said fourth-quarter results would be diminished

by poor results in Europe.

As for Ford, in North America, the company reported a fourth-quarter pretax operating profit of $889 million, up from $670 million a year earlier. But in Europe, the company reported a pretax operating loss of $190 million, compared with a loss of $51 million a year earlier, due largely to higher material costs. In Asia, Ford reported a pretax operating loss of $83 million, compared with a year-earlier profit of $23 million, reflecting the impact of Thailand flooding as well as higher costs. In Latin America, Ford reported a pretax operating profit of $108 million, compared with a profit of $281 million a year earlier, due to unfavorable exchange rates and higher commodity costs.

So a $219 million gain in North America was overwhelmed by additional losses of $139 million in Europe and earnings reductions of $106 million in Asia and $173 million in South America.

On the earnings call Friday, Mulally was asked if he is managing differently given the downturns around the world. He said Ford management meets every Thursday to review "the macro-environment worldwide."

"What we are working on now for this year is to continue to improve in North America" while strengthening operations in South America, where competition is increasing; managing in Europe's "uncertain environment," and "continuing to implement growth and increasing the profit contribution in Asia Pacific," he said.

The solution to all these problems? It doesn't seem to have changed much from the day Mulally laid it out soon after joining Ford in 2006. The OneFord plan, he said Friday, involves "global platforms and simplification of the product line" and remains the guiding principal for the transformation of the company. Today, 85% of Ford's products are produced on nine platforms, he said. OneFord, said CFO Lewis Booth, enables "competitive costs because of the scale we can generate."

Friday's share decline recalled the reaction to Ford's fourth-quarter earnings a year earlier, when Ford

also missed estimates

. On Jan. 28, 2011, shares closed down 13.4%, to $16.27, after Ford reported earnings excluding items of 30 cents, below consensus of 48 cents. Some of the problems then were the same as the problems Friday: a failure to make a profit in Europe and cost increases related largely to higher commodity costs.

Ford shares fell 36% in 2011. This year, even after Friday's decline, they are up 10%.

OneFord makes sense, is easy to explain and to remember and embodies the approach of one of America's most respected executives. But even a great solution occasionally runs into problems it cannot address.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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Ted Reed