Ford, GM to Cut Production as Sales Slow

From Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it will slash production 17% in the second quarter as the possibility of war with Iraq and lagging consumer confidence continue to hurt sales.

The world's second-largest automaker said it plans to produce 980,000 vehicles at North American assembly plants, down nearly 200,000 vehicles from what it produced in the second quarter of 2002.

General Motors Corp., whose sales fell 19% last month, said at the beginning of the month that it will cut production by 10.5% in the April-June quarter.

U.S. auto sales, hurt by harsh winter weather and a sluggish economy, fell 6.5% in February, and analysts' sales forecasts for March are equally chilling.

Goldman Sachs & Co. reports that sales in the first two weeks of March were weak and "may weaken further as the month progresses because the potential war with Iraq would seem to be a late-month event."

That may mean more production cuts to offset rising inventories.

Despite concerns about war and skittish consumers, Ford will begin making its new F-Series pickup in Norfolk, Va., at the end of June, said George Pipas, Ford's top sales analyst. Such a changeover requires major adjustments at the plant.

"It basically wipes out June production in Norfolk for all intents and purposes," Pipas said.

Ford shares rose 5 cents to $7.13 in New York Stock Exchange trading.

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