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In Chicago visit, Ford President Sheele steady on year's sales forecast

November 23, 2010
Chicago's ties to Ford Motor Co. reach to the company's origins. In fact, a 1909 tour of the city's meatpacking plants gave Henry Ford his idea of a moving assembly line. In advance of this week's centennial celebration of the founding of Ford, Chief Operating Officer Nick Sheele visited Chicago in May to discuss the state of the auto industry, and Ford's place in it. The economy "is in a bit of a rough patch," said the native of Essex, England. "Sales are sluggish. Ford forecast 16.5 million sales this year, and we've stuck with that forecast. We're not expecting a huge slowdown." Sheele said the industry has grown ever more competitive in recent years, with carmakers expanding to new segments-a Porsche SUV, a front-wheel-drive BMW, a $100,000 Volkswagen model. But Sheele said Ford greets the challenge. "Great new products have made us what we are, and great products will lead us into the future. Our history has been defined time and again by passion and commitment," he said. In all, 65 new Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products will be unveiled in the next five years, Sheele said. He compared Ford's quickened product development cycle to a tsunami, a tidal wave barely noticeable above water as it moves across the sea. "We've been quietly revamping, but now we're going to crash upon the shoreline," said the Ford COO. Sheele said the Lincoln and Mercury lineups would be completely revamped over the next three years, with Lincoln venturing into two new product segments. "From our customers' perspective," he said, "this is a great time. Ford vehicles offer more choice, with more features, and are safer and more efficient. And the cost of buying is trending down, making automobiles the most affordable since 1978."