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Ford Won’t Take Advantage of Weakened Japanese, Fields Says

The executive also says escalating fuel prices are unlikely to derail the nascent sales rebound in the U.S.

NEW YORK – Ford does not plan to increase incentives to gain market share at the expense of its earthquake-stricken Japanese competitors, says Mark Fields, president-the Americas.

"Our strategy is going to be very consistent going forward, despite the volatility in the marketplace," he tells Ward’s at the New York auto show.

Ford largely has been unaffected by the crisis, which has crippled some Japanese suppliers, with one exception. The auto maker has been forced to restrict dealer orders for vehicles with Tuxedo Black and a several red paints due to the shortage of a paint additive produced in Japan.

Fields says Ford will have replacement colors in the next couple of months, but declines to provide details.

Over the last several years, Ford has culled its supplier ranks and awarded key parts makers with long-term contracts.

Fields says the move hasn’t presented any problems for Ford when an unexpected crisis makes it difficult for a key supplier to meet demand.

"It all comes down to how many suppliers you use for a certain part and where those parts are made," he says. "Are they made at a single plant, are they made at two plants?

"There are ways you can de-risk your supply chain so that in the case of volatility or Mother Nature waking up and doing some things you can work your way through that. And that’s what we’re doing."

Fields says escalating fuel prices are unlikely to derail the nascent rebound the auto industry is experiencing, noting conditions "are not impacting when people will buy, but what people will buy."

Ford several years ago made a large investment in fuel-efficient powertrains in anticipation that pump prices would rise, he says, noting the auto maker is well-positioned with new fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Ford Focus C-car and Fiesta B-car.

Meanwhile, Fields says he is confident Ford and the United Auto Workers will come to a mutually beneficial labor agreement during this summer’s contract negotiations. UAW leadership has blasted the auto maker for paying executives millions of dollars following sacrifices by rank-and-file union members.

Fields says it’s in the best interest of both parties to ensure Ford remains profitable.

"Our conversations will continue to focus on being competitive with the best in the world and drive the company forward," he says.

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TAGS: Auto Shows
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