The head of Ford’s luxury car division said on Monday he did not rule out the unit turning a profit in 2003, Reuters reported.

“It is not out of the question that we could be profitable this year,” Mark Fields, chief executive of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (PAG), told reporters on the sidelines of an industry conference in Paris, Reuters said.

The news agency noted that, together with Ford’s upscale Lincoln brand, PAG has been ordered by Ford chairman and chief executive, Bill Ford Jr., to contribute more than 30% of group profits by the middle of the decade.

But the division, which includes the Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin brands, made an $US88-million pre-tax loss in the first quarter of 2003, while Ford’s North American business – the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands – turned a $1.2 billion pre-tax profit, Reuters added.

The news agency said Fields, who gained a reputation as a cost-cutter as head of Mazda before he took charge of PAG a year ago, has pledged consolidation after a period of rapid growth under its previous chief, Wolfgang Reitzle.