Ford Cautiously Optimistic for 2010 - TheStreet

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Despite its

booming auto services business

and

multi-billion dollar plans for hybrid vehicle projects

,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

is still taking a conservative approach to its plans.

After meeting with president Barack Obama and commerce secretary Gary Locke in Washington Monday, Ford chairman Bill Ford said he felt the economy still hasn't reached a point where auto sales will be booming next year. The economy was just OK, but not great, he said, adding that joblessness was still a concern. He expected industry-wide light vehicle sales to rise modestly in the U.S. next year.

Thus, until the economy shows signs of significant improvements, Ford says the company will continue to plan conservatively, keeping inventories low. However, it is ready to ramp up production if business demand picks up significantly in 2010.

"We're not planning for a huge pickup next year. If we get one, we'll ride it," Ford told reporters. He had been in a meeting in Washington to discuss recommendations for economic improvement.

Despite Ford's cautious outlook on next year's auto industry sales, the company has clearly benefited from the now more stable economy. Earlier this month, Ford reported that it

sold many more U.S. cars and crossover vehicles

in November compared to a year ago, driven mainly by demand for its fuel-efficient vehicles. It also said that it was getting ready to ramp up vehicle production in North America for the first quarter of 2010.

Ford will probably end the year as the second-best selling auto brand in Europe. Meanwhile, its market share is up 1% to 15.9% in the U.S.

Both Ford and GM have notified workers of their plans to unfreeze salary perks in 2010, as the economy continues to stabilize and auto demand slowly picks up again.

Ford stock has jumped 3.4% to $9.40 in early afternoon trading Tuesday, while

Toyota

(TM) - Get Report

has fallen 0.3% to $83.30.

Honda

(HMC) - Get Report

is up 0.3% at $34.10, and

Daimler

(DAI)

is up 0.2% at $52.70.

-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

RELATED STORIES:

>>2010 Peek: Ford's Auto Services Booming

>> Ford May Invest $500 Million for Hybrids

>> Ford Stock on the Road to Recovery

>> Ford Sales Boosted by Fuel-Efficent Cars

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