Ford: More Driving Us Lately

Chairman Bill Ford says the fact the automaker isn't teetering could be a plus.
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Ford

(F) - Get Report

wants to stand out from the crowd of the "troubled automakers."

"If consumers see Ford as a company trying to pull itself up by its own bootstraps, and making it on its own and pulling the right levers, I think that could be a positive for us," Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said Tuesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Speaking at an event in Dearborn to preview 2009 models, Ford said the company's December U.S. sales don't look too bad through the first two weeks of the month,

The Associated Press

reported. Rather, sales are turning out "relatively well" compared with November,

AP

said.

In November, Ford saw its market share increase both domestically and abroad. In both cases, Ford sales declined sharply, but the declines were less steep than competitors' declines, even foreign competitors.

Ford is taking market share from

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

and

Chrysler

, says John Wolkonowicz, senior market analyst for IHS Global Insight.

"There's not a lot of cost shopping between domestics and imports," he says. "You like one and hate the other, or vice versa. And if you need a vehicle right now and you prefer an American vehicle, you are concerned about viability, and (CEO) Alan Mullaly has convinced the American people that Ford is not going bankrupt. So you buy a Ford."

Ford shares declined by 5 cents on Tuesday, closing at $3.13. Meanwhile, GM shares rose 17 cents to close at $4.25.

During four congressional hearings in November and December, Mullaly repeatedly insisted that Ford differed from GM and Chrysler, both of which insisted they need immediate loans to avoid liquidity crises. Ford, by contrast, didn't ask for a loan, although it has requested a line of credit to be accessed should conditions deteriorate. To an extent, the hearings almost became a vehicle for Ford to market its financial advantages.

Another factor in Ford's success is the popularity of the F150 pickup. The F150 "is doing better than expected in this environment," says Jeff Schuster, executive director of forecasting for J.D. Power. "It is benefitting from both fuel prices and higher incentives across the industry. That's not to say Ford is not having difficulties, but they seem to have put themselves in a position to weather the current conditions."

On Monday, Ford of Europe said its

market share

in its 19 principal European markets rose by 0.5% to 8.8% in November, even as its sales in those markets slipped by 21.4%. In October, Ford's market share was 0.4 percentage points higher than in October 2007. Ford is the second leading auto maker in Western Europe, behind

Volkswagen

.

November sales trends were the same in the U.S., where Ford's market share increased to 15.5% from 14%. In October, Ford's market share was 1% higher than in October, 2007. Nevertheless, Ford sales fell nearly 31% for the month, while overall domestic industry sales slumped 35%.