Ford chief financial officer Don Leclair said in a statement on Wednesday that the company did not agree with credit rating agency Standard & Poor's decision to downgrade the company to BBB-/A-3 with a stable outlook, the lowest investment mark just a notch above 'junk' status.

Leclair said Ford does not believe Standard & Poor's conclusion accurately reflects the state of the business and the positive progress made over the past two years.

"We're introducing great new products, we've exceeded our cost cutting targets, our cash availability is outstanding and we are on track to achieve our financial milestones for 2003," Leclair said.

He said Ford on October 16 increased its 2003 full-year earnings guidance from continuing operations, excluding special items, from 70 cents per share to a range of 95 cents to $1.05 per share and, for the first nine months of 2003, reduced costs by $2.7 billion when compared with 2002 while expecting full-year "cost performance" will be around $3 billion.

He added that Ford has "exceptionally strong" liquidity, with $48 billion in cash and cash equivalents.

"We are in a solid position with a strong plan in place. We have every reason to believe our financial position will continue to improve," Leclair added.

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more