Alex Trotman: In The Passing Lane

Alex Trotman is sitting pretty. Ford's second-quarter profit of $2.5 billion was an industry record and well ahead of rival General Motors' $2.1 billion. Now, the Ford chairman says his company, the world's No.2 car- maker since 1932, could even pull ahead of GM. "Our goal is to be the best automotive company in the world, and that may result in us being the biggest," he told BUSINESS WEEK on July 16.

In June, Ford came within a few car lengths of overtaking GM. GM's U.S. market share tumbled four points, to 28.4% in the quarter, while Ford's surged more than two points, to 26.9%. GM CFO J. Michael Losh blames its share loss on lengthy strikes and pledges his company's market share will top 31% by yearend.

Ford has stalled before. It set a profit record in second-quarter '96, then tumbled in the fall, leaving it with Detroit's worst profits in '96. Analysts expect a second-half squeeze this year, too. But Trotman vows to cut incentives to buoy margins. "We have a green flag flying, and we're going around the track in fine fashion," he boasts.

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