Ford Chief Defends Company

Chief exec Alan Mulally said automaker is working hard to 'transform our business' into a more profitable one that meets 21st century demands for fuel-efficient vehicles.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday the company is working hard to "transform our business" into a more profitable one that meets 21st century demands for fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ford's chief executive officer, Alan Mulally, said he'll make that argument to the Senate Banking Committee as the country's Big Three automakers plead anew for federal financial assistance.

Mulally denied on ABC's "Good Morning America" that automakers resisted restructuring their companies to meet current marketing realities. He said, "This week, we're actually going to start the transformation of one of our truck plants over to a fuel-efficient car plant."

Mulally also took exception to charges the company had been badly managed, saying that "if everybody can remember, we had gotten back to profitability in the first quarter of this year ... None of us ever anticipated that we'd be in a world where our sales in this industry have fallen by 40 percent in the first nine months. "

"The only thing we're asking for is a bridge loan system" to get the industry past the current crisis, Mulally said in an interview on CNN.

"I think the past is the past," he said. "This discussion is about the future."

Mulally said that in legislation the Congress passed last year in coordination with the industry, mechanisms were established to assist the industry in the kind of hard-times scenario that has now come into play.

Asked if he could guarantee that Ford would make the necessary adaptations to justify large sums of taxpayer assistance, Mulally said, "Absolutely, and I don't think it;'s a promise. I think it's a promise we're already delivering upon today.'"

He said that Ford's strategic plan is to "have a full portfolio of small, medium and larger vehicles that our customers want. ... So we want to be there with a full portfolio."

Mulally said the company is working on electric-vehicle technology and that "our No. 1 prioreity is to improve the internal combustion engine."

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