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Ford Expects to Reverse Market Share Losses on 2 Models

Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, expects to begin reversing share losses in its home market because of two new models, the midsize Fusion sedan and the Escape sport-utility vehicle.

“With these new products, we’ll have the opportunity to gain share,” Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, told reporters at the automaker’s Flat Rock, Michigan, factory, which will begin building the redesigned Fusion next year. “We won’t go after share for share itself. We want a good, profitable business.”

Ford is bringing Fusion production to the U.S. and will add a second shift of 1,200 workers at the Flat Rock plant, which also builds the Mustang sports car. Hiring will begin in next year’s second quarter, Fields said. Ford will continue to build the Fusion at a factory in Mexico. It captured 15.6 percent of the U.S. market this year through August, down from 16.8 percent a year earlier.

The company has lost market share this year because it was “in sell down” on old Fusion and Escape models, which depleted inventory, Fields said.

“The reason I mention those two segments is because one out of every three retail sales is in those segments,” Fields said.

The executive also blamed Ford’s U.S. total share slide on full-size pickup sales not recovering “as much as they have in the past.” Prior to this year, Ford gained share in the U.S. for three consecutive years, its longest run of growth in four decades. F-Series pickups comprise the company’s biggest-selling line of vehicles. F-Series gained 13 percent this year through August.

Alliance Ends

Ford, after ending a 20-year production alliance with Mazda Motor Corp., is renaming the factory the Flat Rock Assembly plant, Fields said. Since 1992, the factory had been known as Auto Alliance International to reflect the joint production of models for Ford and Mazda.

Ford is taking over operational control of the factory, though Mazda retains an ownership stake. The final Mazda6 rolled off the assembly line last month.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said Sept. 6 that Ford will begin selling the Mustang in Europe “soon,” without offering more specific details.

Mulally, since arriving from Boeing Co. in 2006, has moved Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford away from alliances and ownership of foreign automakers. He sold off Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo and reduced Ford’s stake in Mazda. Ford also no longer relies on Mazda for small-car development.

Mustang Surges

Mustang sales in the U.S. are up 21 percent this year to 62,382, according to researcher Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Ford’s U.S. sales have risen 6 percent this year through August, less than the industrywide gain of 15 percent.

Ford’s North American operations have delivered record profits this year while the automaker has lost money in its international operations. The company earned $4.14 billion in North America in 2012’s first half and had an operating profit margin of 10.8 percent.

Ford fell 0.3 percent to $10.11 at the close in New York.

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