Even though gasoline prices are down to almost $2 per gallon around here as election day approaches, Ford CEO Alan Mulally apparently doesn't think the current situation will last. Mulally told Automotive News that the Dearborn automaker is staying the course on its plan to introduce a half dozen new smaller vehicles in the U.S. market in the next couple of years. The respite in fuel prices may give Ford some breathing space on the launch of its new F-150 pickup truck. Last week the company announced it would bring back 1,000 workers at its Dearborn truck plant. However, the company has not changed plans to close and/or retool several truck plants over the next 18 months to build smaller cars.

Mulally also told the interviewer that the company is still considering bringing the Ka to the U.S. market and will be watching demand for smaller cars. The challenge for Ford and other automakers is offering small cars like the Ka and Fiesta at a profitable price point. That's even more of an issue with the current economic conditions. Prior to the recent financial collapse, it was hoped that they could offer small cars with the levels of equipment offered in bigger cars and thus command a high enough price to make money. That may prove to be more difficult now as Mulally acknowledged that we could see U.S. car sales dip to as low as 11-12 million annually next year compared to a high a few years ago of 17 million. You can check out video of the AN chat with Mulally here.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

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