) -- Five years into the Alan Mulally era at
, the automaker is shifting its focus from its U.S. turnaround to dramatic international growth.
"We have the foundation now to serve a much wider range of customers worldwide," said CEO Alan Mulally, concluding a three-hour investor day presentation Tuesday afternoon.
At the start of the conference, Mulally noted "we've been working toward this day for five years," and he welcomed the chance to talk about "where is Ford going in the longer run."
Later, Mulally, who is 65, parried an analyst's question about how long he will stay with Ford. "I absolutely am honored to be serving Ford, and I look forward to helping to accelerate the implementation of this plan," he said.
is not a new concept for Ford; it has been a theme for more than a year. It is, in fact, a necessity because Ford so badly trails rivals in the key Asian markets of China and India.
But on Tuesday, for the first time, Ford attached numbers to its growth intentions. Among them, by mid-decade the automaker wants to increase worldwide sales by about 50% to about 8 million vehicles, up from 5.3 million in 2010.
By 2020, Ford wants small vehicles to represent about 55% of sales, up from 48% today. About 32% of its sales would come from the Asia Pacific and Africa, more than doubling its current percentage of sales from the region.
In terms of margin, Ford said it wants mid-decade global automotive operating margins to increase the 8% to 9% range, from 6.1% in 2010, while North American operating margin in the 8% to 10% range. Additionally, Ford's debt reduction efforts will continue, taking automotive debt to about $10 billion, down from $16.6 billion at the end of the first quarter.
The key to growth in China and India is for Ford to
. By 2015, Ford would expand its China line from five to 15 products and its India line from three to eight products. In India, for instance, Ford increased sales by 3% by adding a single product, the Figo. In China, Ford currently has about a 4% market share, while
has about a 14% share.
The good news is rapid growth in the entire China auto market, and Ford's plan to increase its product mix so it is not just in the larger car market when most Chinese consumers are buying smaller cars. Ford said it can reduce prices in emerging markets by creating lower-priced versions of global vehicles.
Clearly, Ford shareholders need something to cheer about. Year-to-date Ford shares are down 18%, after rising 335% in 2009 and 65% in 2010. Shares closed Tuesday at $13.95, up 4 cents, after trading as high as $14.19 during the day.
While he was not specific about a timeframe, CFO Lewis Booth noted that Ford anticipates restoring its dividend. A dividend "is absolutely the right thing to do for the shareholders," he said. "
But we want to be able to sustain that when we make the decision."
Questioned about the prospect of contract talks with the UAW, Mulally said the optimism about Ford's future will have a positive impact on the talks. "We have very competitive wages and benefits now, and people are very excited about continuing this growth," he said. "The dynamics we're involved with
are a lot different than in the past."
Mark Fields, executive vice president, added that Ford's commitment to add 7,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2012 has created "a very different kind of dynamic than when you're shrinking the business."
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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