Ford Motor Co. keeps rolling along.Ford has continued its remarkable turnaround from its recession lows, in large part driven by muscular sales of the Northland-built F-Series trucks and Escapes, according to the latest financial figures released April 26.The nation’s largest automaker posted a net income of $2.6 billion for the first quarter of 2011, a $466 million improvement from the same period last year.It was, Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said during a conference call with reporters, “another quarter of growth, profitability and positive automotive operating-related cash flow” for the company.Ford’s fiscal vigor should come as good news for the Northland, which depends on the automaker as one of the region’s main economic engines. Both the F-Series truck and Escape lines are manufactured at the company’s assembly plant in Claycomo.The company’s latest financial statement was a nearly across-the-board buffet of increasing revenue and positive projections for future growth.Ford posted a $2.8 billion pre-tax operating profit, an increase of more than 40 percent from the first quarter of 2010. This marks Ford’s seventh consecutive quarter of pre-tax operating profit.Every segment of the company was profitable, including its financial services division, which had taken one of the worst hits during the recession.Ford investors had reason to celebrate as the automaker’s earnings per share increased from 11 cents to 61 cents.Domestic sales increased 16 percent compared to the previous period “due to strong demand for fuel-efficient products such as Fiesta, Fusion, Edge, Escape, Explorer and F-Series.”The company’s operating margin for its North American automotive sector increased from 8.9 percent to 10.3 percent.Ford expects its global business to increase about 3 percent through the remainder of the year. Company officials plan to shift production to meet increased demand for smaller, more energy-efficient vehicles as fuel becomes more expensive.Ford is going to “accelerate development of new products our customers want and value,” Mulally said.Ford in the NorthlandSince it opened in 1951, the Claycomo plant has built a reputation as one of the most efficient and effective in the entire company. About 4,000 people work at the 1.3-acre assembly site.With a payroll of about $500 million, the Claycomo factory has a total economic impact of about $10 billion on the Kansas City region, according to Clay County Economic Development Council Executive Director Jim Hampton.Northland residents got a scare in 2010 when Ford announced its plant to relocate the Escape line to an overhauled plant in Kentucky. The F-Series trucks will continue to be assembled in Claycomo.Missouri lawmakers, Kansas City regional economic development officials, Gov. Jay Nixon and local union officials banded together last summer to draft economic incentives worth about $100 million in order to preserve the Claycomo plant. As result of those efforts, the company pledged to spend about $400 million to upgrade its Northland plant for a new, as-yet-unannounced model line.Tony Reinhart, Ford’s regional director of governmental affairs, reaffirmed the automaker’s commitment to the Claycomo plant during a Clay County Economic Development Council luncheon April 14.“My employer, Ford, announced a new project that will bring $400 million of new investment and retain more than 3,000 jobs,” Reinhart said. “Since one of those jobs might have been mine, I am really glad about that.”The company still hasn’t revealed what exactly will happen at the Claycomo plant, according to Hampton.“We haven’t heard anything, though we’re certainly paying close attention,” Hampton said.Staff writer Ray Weikal can be reached at 389-6637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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