Ford is not planning for a big sales gain in 2010 but will likely boost vehicle production if business is better than expected, chairman Bill Ford has said.

"We're not planning for a huge pickup next year. If we get one, great, we'll ride it," Bill Ford told Reuters at the US Commerce Department.

"We're planning conservatively. Just as we did this year, we've kept our inventories low. If things start to pop for the better, we'll adjust our production upward and go that way," he said.

The economy, Ford said, was not great and he expressed concern about joblessness.

"As long as unemployment stays high, it's hard to feel good about the economy," Ford said.

Bill Ford had earlier talked with President Obama at the White House, calling the meeting a courtesy visit during which Ford complimented him on his handling of the industry's restructuring this year.

"The way he stepped in with GM (General Motors Co) and Chrysler and preventing the collapse of the supply base was something they did swiftly and forcefully and it worked," Ford said.

Unlike GM and Chrysler, Ford did not request a federal bailout.

Betting on smaller cars, Ford is set to roll out the European Fiesta in the United States by summer and a redesigned Focus compact later in 2010.

Although fuel prices remain relatively low, Bill Ford said the vehicle strategy remains "the right one" so long as Ford cars are attractive to consumers.

"To achieve fuel efficiency, we're not giving up 'fun to drive.' If we were, then I'd be worried about it," Ford said of the potential impact of lower petrol prices on his business.

US retail petrol prices fell to the lowest level in eight weeks, the US Energy Department said on Monday. Regular unleaded averaged US$2.60 per gallon.

Bill Ford is a strong proponent of electric vehicles, urging the industry to movee more aggressively in that direction, Reuters noted.

Its US range includes several hybrid models.