Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally said Monday that the automaker's financial position and its product development efforts are helping it face a slumping market at home and a slowing one abroad.
“Everything you read in the paper about the business situation is really pretty true,” he told Inforum, a women’s business group, in Ford’s hometown. “It really is tough out there. ... But as bad as everything is, it’s really going quite well.”
He said the automaker has the financing in place to handle the U.S. auto sales slump. Ford mortgaged its factories, brand names and other items to secure a $23.4 billion line of credit to fund its restructuring plan and cover losses.
"Fortunately, we aggressively went to the markets a year ago ... and took out a small, home improvement loan," he said to laughter. "(It's) enough cushion to be able to handle a downturn."
Ford has abandoned a forecast of returning to profitability in 2009 and now can't say when it will make money again.
Mulally's speech comes as automakers plan another aggressive campaign — this time to secure up to $50 billion in government loans that would pay to modernize plants and help them build more fuel-efficient vehicles.
He would not say if he will go to Washington to lobby Congress, which returns this week from its summer break. He said the main issue now is to find the right way to finance the package, and he's optimistic a deal can be reached quickly.
He told reporters after the speech that many people think a $25 billion package already approved by Congress in last year's energy bill is not enough to help the industry, and a higher amount would help speed up automakers' efforts to improve existing engines as well as develop more hybrids and electric vehicles.
Automakers want to secure the money for the loans before November's election because a new president and Congress could delay the companies' ability to access the loans. The White House said last week it was talking to lawmakers and the industry about the financing.
General Motors Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner is scheduled to testify at a Senate energy summit in Washington on Friday to discuss the automaker's work to develop alternative vehicles and biofuels and the government loan proposal.
For his part, Mulally described last year's legislation as part of a "turning point" in Washington.
"I was really pleased with the reception we got for all of the work we are doing on fuel efficiency, from EcoBoost (a turbocharged yet more fuel-efficient engine) to hybrids to electrification," he said. "I don't think many people realized how far along Ford is on an agenda to make really fuel efficient ... vehicles.
"I think we've got a lot of people in our corner."