February 12, 2010 / 10:38 PM / in 8 years

Ford sees Canada auto sales up 4 percent in 2010

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co expects growth in sales in the Canadian auto market at a tepid 4 percent this year as the economy struggles to regain its footing after a more than 10 percent drop in sales in 2009.

That would mean about 1.52 million vehicles sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. About 1.65 million cars and light trucks were sold in 2007, the peak year for sales in Canada’s auto market.

“It’s still going to be a challenging time,” said David Mondragon, chief executive of Ford’s Canadian unit, in an interview at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.

“The economy is going to go through still a very turbulent year, the industry will continue to have ebbs and flows, but we don’t see a lot of gain or a lot of growth this year in terms of industry strength.”

Mondragon said Ford had plenty of liquidity to finance eight new vehicle launches in Canada in 2010.

“We made money last year for the first time in a few years and we have a very strong foundation financially to move our business forward. We are investing aggressively in new product.”

He said the company, which has closed plants and slashed salaried head count, is now “right-sized”.

“We are able to make money in a much reduced industry compared to historical standards, so we do feel that we have a good footprint to work from and as the industry increases, it will definitely give us opportunity to grow, not only from a sales and share standpoint, but from a profit one as well.”

Ford’s main goal in Canada for 2010 is to be as well received for its cars as it is for its trucks, Mondragon said.

“That’s what’s going to help us grow our footprint. It’s going to help us leverage our global footprint as well.”

Ford has eight new product launches in Canada this year and seven of them are on car-based platforms, including the sub-compact Fiesta and a four-door and a five-door Focus. They will put the company back into segments of the market it has been out of for years.

The compact car segment makes up 30 percent of the overall industry in Canada. About half of that segment is made up of two-door and four-door cars, while the other half is made up of five-door cars -- an area where Ford does not currently have a product.

“Now we will have a great opportunity to compete in the full size of the segment,” Mondragon said.

Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Peter Galloway

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