Ford CEO Bill Ford Jr. has called on the US federal government and business leaders to find new solutions to rising health-care costs and other challenges that threaten the long-term health of the U.S. manufacturing sector. His remarks were made in a speech before the US Chamber of Commerce and reported by Detroit News.

"Some of the key issues are bigger than any one company or any one industry," Ford said. "In order to tackle them effectively, we need the collective action of government and industry working together, to ensure the US remains competitive, and our economy stays strong."

On health care, the biggest drag on the competitiveness of Detroit's automakers, Ford said he hoped the Bush administration and Congress would specifically look at the costs. Ford spent $3.2 billion on health care last year and faces another steep increase next year.

Ford and other manufacturers have stepped up pleas for relief from rising health care with lawmakers, the Detroit News said. The report added that recent surveys have shown the sharp rise in health care has made employers reluctant to hire new employees, putting a drag on economic growth.

Ford reportedly said that medical malpractice costs - an issue highlighted by President Bush during the campaign - and additional coverage for the uninsured must also be addressed.

After the speech, Ford said it was too soon to go into specifics on initiatives that might help.

"We just had an election, so it's hard to know where the landscape is right now," Ford said according to The Detroit News. "We'll spend some time over the next few months to get a sense of where Congress is, and then we'll engage in a dialogue. It's way too early to get into any kind of specificity. It's too early on our part, and it's too early on the part of Congress."