World and Nation

Ford Returns to Profitability, But Faces New Challenges

While its cross-town rivals stumbled through bankruptcy this summer, the Ford Motor Co. pressed its advantage, and delivered surprising news Monday that its cost-cutting efforts and improving sales helped it earn nearly $1 billion in the third quarter.

But now its faces new challenges in maintaining that lead. Both General Motors and Chrysler, with the stigma of bankruptcy receding, are moving ahead with their own comeback plans.

Under the prodding from a new board of directors, GM is aggressively marketing a 60-day, money-back guarantee on its vehicles that likely will result in market share gains to be announced on Tuesday.

And Chrysler and its new partner, Fiat, on Wednesday will disclose an ambitious five-year plan to streamline its product lineup and introduce more fuel-efficient models.

Ford is also running into resistance from its unionized workforce as it attempts to cut costs further.

Its improving fortunes were the main reason cited by the United Automobile Workers on Monday for rejecting another round of labor concessions that would have roughly matched concessions that workers at Chrysler and General Motors approved in the spring.

The UAW’s president, Ron Gettelfinger, and its vice president in charge of the Ford unit, Bob King, said in a statement that the carmaker’s third-quarter profit was “evidence of the contributions that Ford workers have made.”

Ford, which earned $997 million in the third quarter and made money in North America for the first time since 2005, has turned itself around largely by cutting costs and introducing new cars that consumers want to buy, rather than resorting to deep discounts to lure shoppers into showrooms.

But Ford also took advantage of the unfavorable perception that many consumers had of GM and Chrysler, which have needed huge infusions of federal aid to survive. Even Toyota has been losing money and, after significant recalls, been forced to defend its quality.

Toyota, like GM and Chrysler, is plotting its own turnaround effort, with a new president, Akio Toyoda, focused on restoring its once-pristine reputation.

“These difficult times have caused us to do some important soul-searching and approach the business in new and better ways,” Bob Carter, head of the Toyota division in the United States, told reporters in Detroit on Monday.