Fords John Fleming

Ford's John Fleming

Ford thinks the global auto industry will improve this year despite uneven performance in several regions around the world.

"We are seeing growth. It's modest growth," Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said at a conference of Wall Street analysts in New York, the Wall Street Journal reported, adding that forecasted an increase of up to 10% in global auto sales for the year, with strength in sales to both retail and commercial customers.

Speaking separately at the UBS Best of Americas conference in London, John Fleming, Ford's executive vice president for manufacturing and labor, said that several markets in Asia, including China, should continue to see a substantial boost in vehicle sales. But he added that sales in the US and Europe could be lower than earlier expected as those markets come off last year's government-driven inventive programmes and find consumer spending still tepid.

Fleming also said that lingering production overcapacity in Europe has hurt the car industry's ability to keep prices firm in that market. Ford had made a conscious effort to stay away from costly consumer incentives used by some car makers to sell more vehicles in Europe. "Because of that, we have lost some share," Fleming said, adding that he expected at some point for excess production capacity in Europe to shake out.

Back in New York, Fields said Ford has been pleased with its ability to increase transaction prices for its new cars and trucks, but "I don't think we'll see the same level of performance going forward." He also said that the company's rate for launching refreshed and completely new vehicles has been strong in 2010 but is not expected to match the same pace in 2011.

Fleming said Ford saw the industry's parts-supplier base as stable. "Clearly we're coming out of an extremely difficult period," he said. "We have seen no hesitation on behalf of suppliers to come with us" as Ford ramps up production in North America and expands production in emerging markets such as China and India.