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Detroit News

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Ford wants customers to know loans are available to buy cars
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

DEARBORN -- Ford Motor Co. has a message for consumers: "We have our own finance company and we are still loaning money and leasing cars.

All the talk about the credit crisis is keeping consumers away from dealerships. But Jim Farley, Ford's head of sales and marketing, says his company is still able to get loans and leases for most customers with decent credit through its finance arm, Ford Credit. He said this is "a critical advantage" at a time when some manufacturers are turning people away. "Ford Credit is still in business," he told journalists at a dinner Monday night. "We have to start pointing that out. It's up to us to communicate it."

Farley said dealers in some regions are beginning to do just that.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. sales chief, Jim Lentz, said last week that his company also is able to get loans for most customers, apparently contradicting comments from dealer organization that suggest the credit crunch is responsible for the drop in retail car and truck sales in the United States.

Auto sales remain weak in October after falling to their lowest level in 15 years in September, said Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas group.

U.S. car and truck sales plunged 26.6 percent last month to fewer than 1 million vehicles as consumers stayed away from showrooms amid concern about the financial crisis gripping the nation.

Ford sales fell 34.5 percent.

"We continue to see weakness in the market," Fields said at a media briefing about the new F-150.

He is optimistic about recent actions by the federal government to address the economic situation but has not yet seen any tangible impact.
"It's really difficult to legislate a better mood," he said.

Fields declined to discuss what Ford's plans are for Mazda Motor Corp., the Japanese automaker in which it owns a 33.4 percent controlling stake.

As The Detroit News reported over the weekend, Ford is considering selling a piece of its Mazda stake, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Fields said that while Ford has relied on Mazda for vehicle platform technology, both automakers have the ability to develop that technology on their own.

Fields said that Ford has stepped up communications with employees to reassure them that the automaker has a plan to deal with the downturn in the U.S. auto market amid the financial meltdown that has helped push Ford shares to new lows.

He said the automaker never imagined Ford shares would drop as low as $1.99, a level touched last week, and acknowledged the situation is a distraction for workers as the company tries to implement a turnaround plan.

"It's really important not to get distracted by what's going on out there," Fields said.

Ford shares closed up 40 cents Monday at $2.39 as the Dow Jones industrial average rose 936 points following actions by several countries over the weekend aimed at restoring stability in global financial markets.

Ford is showing workers new products the company has coming out and emphasizing that the automaker has a plan for dealing with the downturn.

Fields said the crisis in the industry now could provide an opportunity to make more fundamental changes that will help the company in the long-term, although he declined to be specific.

"Never waste a crisis in the industry," Fields said. "It allows us to look at the business and take appropriate actions to secure the future of the company."

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Gives them more reasons to buy a Ford!! LOL =)
 
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