Ford Europe: Not Optimistic About '08 Outlook

Automaker's top European executive is bracing for a difficult end to 2008, noting the speed at which the market is heading downward.

PARIS (AP) -- Ford Motor Co.'s top European executive is bracing for a difficult end to 2008.

Ford Europe President and CEO John Fleming said the Dearborn, Mich., automaker had an "excellent" first six months in Europe in 2008, turning profits of $1.3 billion and selling more than 1 million vehicles, "the highest we've ever done in Ford Europe."

But "the second half will be much more difficult because of the speed at which the market is going down," he told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday at the Paris Motor Show.

"You can see a steadily and rapidly reducing market," he said.

Fleming attributed the decline to a combination of factors.

"We know through experience that the housing industry is a leading indicator for the automotive industry," he said. "Then there's the whole area of credit squeeze, which has an effect on cars as well."

"We do know that in some markets like Russia, we've seen very specific examples of some of those problems," he added. "We see at some of our emerging markets, the importers who wholesale vehicles from us have struggled to get some credit for doing it."

Fleming said it was "really difficult" to judge whether the U.S. financial bailout package being pushed by the Bush administration would help markets recover quickly.

"We all hope that it's a short-lived phenomenon, but I'm not necessarily sure it is," he said.

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