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Ford's Turnaround Plan Not Affected by U.S. Slowdown

Ford Motor plans to to return its North American operations to profitability in 2009 are progressing well and are not affected by signs of slowing U.S. economic growth, top officials said Sunday.

"Our plan for profitability in 2009 and generating cash is progressing very well," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Ford family scion was the company's chief executive officer until September 2006, when he was replaced by former Boeing Co executive Alan Mulally.

The third-largest U.S. automaker, which lost $12.6 billion in 2006, is in the midst of a multiyear restructuring that aims to return its money-losing North American arm to profit in 2009.

The company, which is starting to see results from its cost-cutting efforts, made $88 million through the first three quarters of last year.

Bill Ford said in a speech at the show that high-energy prices and weakening U.S. economy are among the chief challenges the company faces in 2008.

Ford CEO Mulally also stressed that while the company was keeping an eye on the impact a weaker U.S. economy could have on inventory levels, so far slower growth had not forced a rethink of the company's restructuring plan.

"It hasn't been declared officially yet that there's a recession, but clearly the GDP of the United States is slowing down, and in other parts of the world," Mulally said.

"We're in real good shape with our inventories ... we'll watch (inventories) every month and make further adjustments as required. (We have) no change in (our) plan at this point," he added.

Mulally also said the company has no plans at this point to forge an alliance with another automaker and has not held any discussions with any other car makers, including Nissan Motor, along those lines.

Nissan, Japan's third-biggest automaker, announced on Friday that it will supply U.S. automaker Chrysler LLC with a fuel-efficient small car for sale in South America.

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