Lowered operating costs and boosted sales are expected to have delivered Ford an operating profit of about US$8bn which would be the best showing since 2000's $10.2bn on US industry auto sales 33% higher, a media report said.

Analysts expect the company - results are out at noon GMT Friday - to show a quarterly profit of 48 cents per share, according to 17 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. That would mean a quarterly profit near $1.7bn on revenues of $30.57bn and an annual profit near $8bn.

The range of estimates are from a high of 58 cents per share and a low of 36 cents per share.

Making profit at a lower sales volume has been one of the keys to the company's strategy since former top Boeing executive Alan Mulally took over as CEO in October 2006, Reuters noted.

This would be the second straight year of profit for Ford, which booked a loss of $30bn from 2006-2008.

Mulally and executive chairman Bill Ford have said the company is now expanding profitably around the globe after fighting for its survival.

Investors will look on Friday for updates from Ford executives on steps toward a return to an investment-grade credit rating, which it has not had since May 2005, the news agency added.

Ford cut its net automotive debt in 2010. After it paid debt to a retiree health care trust fund for the United Auto Workers, its key automotive operations had a debt of $22.8bn and cash of $20.3 bn.

The company said it will be profitable in 2011 but at a lower level than 2010.

The reshaping of Ford was funded by mortgaging most of the company's assets to borrow $23.5bn. The move allowed Ford to finance new product development while not having to accept bailouts like those taken by US rivals General Motors and Chrysler.

Ford's US sales grew 19.5% in 2010, in an industry that grew 11%.

Morningstar analyst David Whiston told Reuters he would be watching Ford's 2011 forecast closely for signals of the automaker's expectations for commodity prices that could increase retail prices for its models. He's also looking to see how high Ford thinks petrol prices will rise in 2011.

"Can Ford meaningfully grow its car model mix should gas prices rise," is a key question, said Whiston. "I know they've made strides by introducing new small cars like the Focus and the Fiesta, but their US sales are still skewed toward trucks."

Ford's US sales of 1.93m for 2010 were 64% trucks, which include SUVs. Overall, US auto industry sales were about half cars and half trucks in 2010.