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Ford Won't Walk Away From F-150

Top executive said it is clear that full-size vehicles like the F-150 pickup aren't going to sell like they have in the past, but Ford won't ignore what has for decades been a top-seller.

GARDEN CITY, Mich. (AP) -- A top Ford Motor Co. executive said recent history has made it clear that full-size vehicles like the F-150 pickup aren't going to sell like they have in the past, but the automaker won't walk away from what has for decades been a top-seller.

Full-size pickups are ''still one of the biggest segments of the industry,'' President of the Americas Mark Fields said Monday during the local unveiling of the new Lincoln MKS luxury sedan at a suburban Detroit dealership. ''We'll continue to focus on the products that made us leaders.''

Ford, however, announced in March that it will further cut production of its pickups and large sport utility vehicles, then announced another round of cutbacks in May. Production will be trimmed by extending regularly scheduled plant shutdowns or eliminating shifts.

''We have to make sure from a production standpoint that we're matching production to demand in an effective manner,'' Fields said.

The company's F-series pickup trucks have been the best-selling trucks in the U.S. for 31 years.

The F-series had been the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. each month since June 2005 but was dethroned last month by cars from Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. F-series sales were off nearly 19 percent through May.

Fields said Ford would avoid the temptation to sell F-150s and other full-size vehicles at deep discounts for the sake of reducing inventories. ''Our philosophy is to be competitive but not excessive,'' he said.

Ford, however, announced last week that it was offering a combination of employee pricing for the general public and cash rebates on 2008-model F-150 and Super Duty pickups through June 30. The total value of the incentives is about $5,750, depending on the model, spokesman Jim Cain said late Monday.

General Motors Corp. responded by increasing incentives for current GM owners to up to $6,000 on seven of its slow-selling pickup and sport utility models, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday.

People who have been briefed on Ford's plans have said the company is working on a smaller, more fuel-efficient version of the F-150 that will likely hit the market in 2011.

Ford notified workers last week that it will cut white-collar salary costs 15 percent by Aug. 1, and an unspecified number of people will lose their jobs. Fields said the decision was the result of revenues from passenger car and crossover sales outstripping revenues from higher-profit trucks and SUVs.

The MKS is being unveiled at more than 300 Lincoln and Lincoln-Mercury dealerships nationwide and is expected to reach showrooms in July.

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