Ford’s market share for its core brands Ford, Lincoln and Mercury “will be relatively flat” next year as the car maker focuses on restoring profitability to its operations, a senior executive said this week, according to reports.

“Nothing in our strategy says we must beat “Toyota or General Motors next year”, Ford group vice president of marketing, sales and service Jim O’Connor told reporters.

“We’re focused on balancing our marketing equation to restore profitability … and that’s growing our retail share, launching our products on time with good quality,” he reportedly said.

Sales to private buyers tend to return bigger profit margins, compared to rental and other fleet sales, and Ford has taken note of a cooling market in recent weeks. After a 20% drop in sales in November led to rising inventories, Ford cut its fourth-quarter production forecast by 2.6% and said output in the first quarter of 2003 would be down 5% from a year earlier.

Ford, which has tried in recent months to cut costly discounts, or incentives, reportedly said it still expects to meet its profit targets this year.