Ford Motor Company Chief Executive Officer Jacques (Jac) Nasser has lost the confidence of the Ford family and will probably be ousted before the year is out, Forbes magazine said last night on its website, citing Ford executives and others familiar with the Ford family's views.

According to Forbes' sources, Ford Motor chairman Bill Ford is most likely to replace Nasser, becoming the first Ford family member in two decades to run the company. His late uncle, Henry Ford II, was chairman until March 1980.

Other candidates, according to Forbes, include Nick Scheele, brought over from Europe in August and currently group vice president for North America, and Ford's Premier Automotive Group chief Wolfgang Reitzle though he is seen as a 'long shot'.

Forbes says that the Ford family has become frustrated watching the company's fortunes downturn following the Firestone tyre crisis, numerous product quality problems and a slump in profits. The company halved its dividend last week and, this week, Standard & Poor's lowered its credit rating.

Tomorrow, Forbes says, Ford will report its second consecutive quarterly loss, a loss of 28 cents per share.

Forbes' sources also say it is likely that, if Bill Ford takes the top job, Visteon CEO Peter Pestillo would return as vice chairman. He is renowned as the industry's best labour-relations manager at a time Ford needs the United Auto Workers union to agree to job cuts, the magazine's website said.

Questioned by the New York Times, Ford officials dismissed Forbes' story.

"We wouldn't speculate on bogus speculation," communications director Jason Vines told the newspaper, adding that there had been frequent suggestions of when and how Nasser would depart, though these have yet to be borne out.

"Ten years from now, when Jacques decides to retire, some will say, 'I told you so,'" Vines added.

Other officials close to the company's operations told the New York Times they did not discount the possibility of Nasser's departure, but none would confirm it.

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