Ford Motor Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said Wednesday the No. 2 U.S. automaker would be able to speed up the repayment of its debt as its financial results improve.
Ford, the only large U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy last year, borrowed more than $23 billion in late 2006, putting up nearly all of its remaining assets, including the familiar blue oval logo to maintain a cash cushion for its turnaround.
The leveraging of its assets, and the government-supported reorganizations of General Motors and Chrysler, left Ford with far more debt than its U.S. rivals, but it surprised analysts with a small profit in 2009.
Mulally repeated Ford's forecast for a profit in 2010 and expectations for it to be "solidly profitable" in 2011.
"So we can accelerate the repayment of the debt and improve the balance sheet," Mulally told reporters at the New York Auto Show. "We know we are paying a little bit more interest than some of our competitors right now, but again that was the plan."
Addressing what executives have called an uncompetitive balance sheet is a priority for Ford, but one that executives have said will follow consistent profits. They have described the turnaround as in its early stages.
On Monday, Ford said it would prepay $3 billion of revolving debt on April 6. The automaker had about $34.4 billion of automotive debt at the end of last year.
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