Ford Motor Company on Thursday reported a net loss of 19 cents per share, or $US380m, for the third quarter of 2007, an improvement compared to the net loss of $2.79 per share, or $5.2bn, in the third quarter of 2006. The automaker also confirmed an expected sale of Jaguar and Land Rover and announced new plans for a more stand-alone Volvo.

"The company continues to explore in greater detail the potential sale of Jaguar and Land Rover with interested parties and anticipates these discussions will culminate in an agreement no later than early next year," Ford said in its results announcement.

It added it had been conducting a strategic review of Volvo, and developed a plan to improve its financial performance and its position as a global producer of premium vehicles; establishing appropriate business arrangements between Volvo and Ford brand operations to allow Volvo to operate on a more stand-alone basis in the absence of the PAG structure; and continuing to achieve synergies between Ford brand operations and Volvo in areas such as product development and purchasing.

The company plans to disclose Volvo's financial performance beginning with 2008 results, Ford said.

Ford's Q3 revenue was $41.1bn, up from $37.1bn a year ago, reflecting better pricing, currency movement and improved product mix.

The loss from continuing operations, excluding special items, was 1 cent per share, or $24m, compared with a loss of 45 cents per share, or $850m, a year ago.

Special items reduced pretax results by $350m in the third quarter. These included costs associated with a previously announced trust preferred securities exchange offer, and charges associated with Ford Europe and PAG personnel reductions and other restructuring actions.

Favourable cost adjustments associated with Ford North America personnel reduction programmes were a partial offset.

"Our third quarter performance is very encouraging," said Ford president and chief executive officer Alan Mulally.

"We can see our plan taking hold with significant improvement continuing in our core automotive operations."

On a pretax basis, worldwide automotive sector losses in the third quarter were $362m, improved over the pretax loss of $1.9bn a year ago. Improvements were due to higher net pricing, lower costs, and improved volume and mix, partially offset by higher interest expense, and unfavourable changes in currency exchange rates.

Vehicle wholesales in the third quarter were 1,487,000, up from 1,467,000 a year ago.  Worldwide automotive revenue for the third quarter was $36.3bn, up from $32.5bn.

In the third quarter, Ford North America reported a pretax loss of $1.0bn, compared with a pretax loss of $2.1bn. Revenue was $16.5bn, up from $15.4bn.

Ford South America reported a thirdquarter pretax profit of $386m, compared with $201m a year ago. Third quarter revenue improved to $2.1bn from $1.5bn.

Ford Europe swung back to a pretax profit of $293m compared with a pretax loss of $13m in 2006. Revenue was $8.3bn, compared with $7.3bn.

Volvo dragged down Premier Automotive Group (PAG) which reported a reduced pretax loss of $97m for the third quarter, compared with a pretax loss of $508m in 2006. Ford said this reflected an unspecified loss at Volvo, partially offset by a small profit at the combined Jaguar and Land Rover operation.  The year over year improvement was due to cost reductions across all brands, including the non-recurrence of adverse 2006 adjustments to warranty reserves.  Higher volumes and higher net pricing were partially offset by the effect of the continued weakening of the US dollar against key European currencies. Q3 revenue was $7.4bn, compared with $6.5bn a year ago.

Ford Asia Pacific and Africa also improved - reporting a pretax profit of $30m, compared with a pretax loss of $56m a year ago.  The improvement primarily reflected cost reductions and higher net pricing, partially offset by adverse product mix, mainly in Australia . Revenue was $1.8bn for the third quarter of 2007, compared with $1.6bn in 2006.

Mazda returns were down however - Ford earned $18m from its investment in the Japanese automaker and associated operations, compared with $40m during Q3 2006.

Q3 results included an other automotive pretax profit of $29m, compared with $553m a year ago, primarily reflecting the non-recurrence of last year's tax-related interest.

The financial services sector earned a pretax profit of $556m, compared with $750m a year ago.

On a pretax basis from continuing operations, Ford Motor Credit Company earned $546m in the third quarter compared with $730m due to the non-recurrence of prior year credit loss reserve reductions, higher depreciation expense for leased vehicles and higher borrowing costs.

Ford said it was now ahead of its 2007 plan both on a pretax and net income basis, and anticipated a substantial year-over-year improvement in fourth quarter results.

Outlook

Fourth quarter automotive and company pretax results are expected to be a loss due to the situation in North America.

Full year pre-tax results excluding special items are expected to be in the range of a small loss to break-even, which would be a significant improvement from a year ago.

Excluding gains or losses from future divestitures, special items for full year 2007 are expected to be a charge in the range of $1bn to $2bn, including a onetime, non-cash charge estimated to be approximately $1.4bn relating to a proposed change in business practice for offering and announcing retail variable marketing incentives to dealers.

Ford Motor Credit expects to earn $1.3bn to $1.4bn this year on a pretax basis, excluding the impact of gains and losses related to market valuation adjustments from derivatives, consistent with the previous estimate.

"Looking ahead, the company's progress in 2007 reflects it is on track to meet its goal of being profitable in North America and total automotive in 2009," Ford said.

"The company also is on track to meet its North American cost reduction target of $5bn by 2008 as compared with 2005.  Progress is being made on achieving US market share goals, and the company is ahead of its $17bn cash outflow target for the 2007 to 2009 period."

"Our third quarter and year-to-date performance indicate that our plan is working," said Mulally.

"Our full year pre-tax outlook excluding special items is to be substantially better than 2006. We remain committed to improving our business and delivering our plan."