Ford CEO Alan Mulally said that a gradually improving economy would be a key driver of growth in 2011.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally said that a gradually improving economy would be a key driver of growth in 2011.

Ford Motor Company has reported third quarter net income of US$1.7 billion, a $690m rise on the same period last year, as strong products, momentum in North America and continued success at Ford Credit fuelled growth amid what the company called "still-challenging business conditions".

Excluding special items, Ford reported a pre-tax operating profit of $2.1bn, an improvement of $1.1 billion from a year ago. Ford has posted pre-tax operating profits for five consecutive quarters.

Ford's third quarter revenue was $29bn, a decline of $1.3 billion from the same period a year ago. Excluding Volvo revenue from 2009, Ford's revenue in the third quarter was up $1.7bn compared with the same period a year ago.

Ford North America posted a third quarter pre-tax operating profit of $1.6bn, a $1.3bn improvement from third quarter 2009. The company said it is on track to gain full-year market share in the US for the second straight year, marking the first time since 1993 that Ford has achieved consecutive annual increases.

Ford today also announced automotive debt reduction actions, including further paying down its revolving credit line by $2bn in the third quarter; prepayment of the remaining $3.6bn of debt owed to the VEBA retiree health care trust by the end of October; and conversion offers on two convertible debt securities in the fourth quarter.

“This was another strong quarter and we continue to gain momentum with our One Ford plan,” said Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally. “Delivering world class products and aggressively restructuring our business has enabled us to profitably grow even at low industry volumes in key regions.

“The key drivers for improvement in 2011 will be our growing product strength, a gradually strengthening economy and an unrelenting focus on improving the competitiveness of all our operations,” Mulally added.  

“Our performance through the first nine months has clearly exceeded our initial expectations and is enabling us to make additional significant balance sheet improvements in the fourth quarter,” said Lewis Booth, Ford executive vice president and chief financial officer. “We are now in a period where we are focusing on growing the business profitably around the world following the hard work that has been done by the entire Ford team to fix the fundamentals of the business.”

The full Ford statement can be seen by clicking here.