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Are Ford's Best Days Behind Them?

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Ford

Is this as good as it gets for Ford ?

The automaker is expected to post 4th quarter and full-year 2011 earnings that may be the largest ever in the history of the Blue Oval.

Yes, a big chunk of the earnings will come from a one-time gain on tax credits booked in the bad years. Still, when you strip out that non-cash gain Ford may be close to its biggest annual net profit.

With that in mind, I'm increasingly hearing reporters and others in the auto industry asking if this is as good as it gets for Ford?

Don't laugh. I heard more than a few respected industry veterans question if Ford has peaked.

Keep in mind, nobody is suggesting Ford will start losing money or imploding. Still, when some look at Ford they see a company that may have pushed its profit growth as far as it can go for this cycle.

After growing profits and market share for three straight years, I don't buy this idea the Ford has peaked. Alan Mulallyhas a deep bench and a global approach to the business that reminds many of Toyota in the 90's. This is not surprising given Mulally's respect and admiration for Toyota back then.

By the way, there are plenty of issues Ford needs to address; Europe is a mess, Lincoln even more so and there are some models in the Ford line-up that fail to impress.

But coming off one of its most profitable years ever, those are the kind of problems that Ford can face with confidence.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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