NEW YORK—Ford, the only U.S. automaker to not accept a federal bailout, surprised analysts with a robust $997 million profit in the third quarter. That’s a night and day difference from the same period last year, when it lost more than $200 million.
The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker has revived itself after shedding more than 40 percent of its workforce since 2006. The company also forecasted a rosy outlook for 2011.
“Our third quarter results clearly show that Ford is making tremendous progress despite the prolonged slump in the global economy,” said Ford CEO Alan Mulally in a statement.
While competitors General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group went through government-assisted bankruptcies in the summer, Ford remained above the fray and took advantage of consumers’ goodwill. Its third-quarter market share in the United States increased 2.2 percent while Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury brands all enjoyed sales increases.
Ford also made money in the North America market for the first time since 2005, when increasing oil prices ushered in a new era favoring smaller vehicles.
The company also saw market share increased in Europe, where its popular Fiesta compact car was the No. 2 selling automobile in Europe. The Fiesta is set to reach North American shores later this year.
According to Ford, the government-sponsored Cash for Clunkers program boosted sales during the third quarter, with the Ford Focus compact car and Ford Escape small SUV among the top-five best sellers. The program was designed to help automakers weather the economic storm and increase the nation’s average automobile fuel economy.
More importantly, Ford is seeing a rebound in auto sales. Given the growth of the U.S. economy, the company foresees a “solidly profitable” 2011—its more upbeat forecast in years.
But there are still some kinks to be worked out at Ford. Last week, United Auto Workers employees rejected a UAW agreement with the company to bring its cost structure in line with its “Big Three” rivals. The workers rejected the measures based on Ford’s better financial health compared with Chrysler and GM. If approved, the measures would limit workers’ rights to strike.