Ford CEO Alan Mulally has said he expected the group, hit by the global slump, to be profitable in 2011, despite the US market recovering more slowly than from past recessions.

He has forecast US industry sales of 10.5 to 11m units this year, 12.5m in 2010 and 14.5m in 2011 and said the market “is starting to pick up right now.”

“The guidance we have given overall – because we continue to invest in new products – is that we will be profitable in 2011,” he told AFP while in India for the launch of the new small Figo car line.

Ford last July announced a second quarter net profit of US$2.3bn dollars due to cost-cutting and a one-time gain from debt reduction in the three months to March.

In August, it booked a 17% jump in US sales, helped by the government-funded ‘cash for clunkers’ scheme.

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“The scrappage programme accomplished everything that everybody wanted because it was a stimulus programme – it was done for near-term stimulus. It accomplished its objectives,” Mulally said.

Longer-term, the market “is looking really very good,” he added.

“When we look out the next 20 years, we see about one-third of all vehicles being purchased in the Asia-Pacific region,” he told AFP.