Ford accidentally posted several slides projecting 2003 results on its web site on Tuesday, The New York Times (NYT) reported. The newspaper said Ford’s expectations for 2003, which it said relatively little about in its 2002 financials, beyond projecting 70 cents in operating earnings, became somewhat clouded after the accidental disclosure.

According to the NYT, Ford executives discounted the slides as wrong and said they were mistakenly released for about 10 minutes. But, because of strict new rules regarding disclosure, the company also submitted a securities filing explaining that the extra slides were “draft and/or preliminary materials prepared for background and scenario planning and contained a number of material inaccuracies”, the NYT added.

The NYT said Ford chief operating officer Nicholas Scheele nevertheless addressed some of the specific forecasts in one of the slides during a question-and-answer session with journalists on a conference call to discuss the 2002 results.

The New York Times said that among the projections were a tripling of net losses in North America automotive operations this year and a huge swing in European automotive operations from break even last year to a $US1.5 billion net profit this year.

According to the NYT, when asked about such a sharp change in fortunes for Ford’s European operation, Scheele said it was related to bullish expectations for newer products like the Jaguar XJ, the Volvo XC90 and the Range Rover.

“Coupled with Ford of Europe continuing very aggressive cost reduction, performance will see a major turnaround,” Scheele said, according to the NYT. But he also acknowledged that the company’s Ford brand could be vulnerable if the European market stalled, the newspaper added.

The NYT said the slides also included projections for net income of $15 million in South America, in contrast to a loss of nearly $300 million last year. According to the paper, Scheele said production would increase because of a new plant in Brazil and that cost-efficiency improvements would improve performance.

“We would hope that effectively whatever happens, short of a major, major disruption in Brazil, we would see a break even situation in Latin America,” he said, the New York Times reported.