Ford sets goal to expand sales in Asia

Alan Mulally, President and CEO of the Ford Motor Company, talks to photographers as he poses in a 2012 Ford Mustang outside the New York Stock Exchange after ringing the opening bell, Tuesday, June 7, 2011. Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it wants to expand its global sales by 50 percent by the middle of this decade, mostly through growth in Asia.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it wants to expand its global sales by 50 percent by the middle of this decade, mostly through growth in Asia.

The company planned to present its plans at a meeting for investors later Tuesday in New York.

Ford sold 5.3 million vehicles last year, but wants to sell 8 million in the next five or six years. It was the world’s fifth largest automaker in 2010, behind Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Co., Volkswagen AG and Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group.

Ford wants more than one-third of its sales to come from its Asia Pacific and Africa region by 2020. That is double the number sold in those regions today. In 2010, Ford sold 838,000 cars and trucks in the Asia Pacific region, which includes China, India, Australia, South Africa and Japan among its 12 markets. It controlled 2.4 percent of that region’s sales.

Ford has seen relatively strong growth in India, where it doubled sales last year thanks to the introduction of the subcompact Figo. But it is still a small player in China, where GM and Volkswagen have far more market share.

The company says most of the vehicles it builds will be sold globally, but it will offer lower-priced versions in emerging markets to attract buyers.

Ford said small cars will represent 55 percent of its sales by 2020. While those cars are less profitable than Ford’s larger trucks and SUVs, the company said it will improve operating margins from 6.1 percent now to 8 to 9 percent by the middle of the decade. Ford is making small cars more profitably than it once could. Instead of developing different cars for different regions of the world, it builds more cars off of fewer underpinnings and sells them globally.

The company also said it expects to return to investment-grade status “in the near term.” Ford lost its investment-grade rating in 2005, when it was deeply in debt. It borrowed $23 billion in 2006 to fund a restructuring that slashed employees and brands and revamped vehicles. The company recently reported its eighth-straight quarterly profit.

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