March 31, 2009 at 1:00 am

Ford intrigued by Obama's program

Ford Motor Co.'s decision to pass on federal aid has saved it from the sort of government intervention that is remaking its crosstown rivals, but the Dearborn automaker said Monday it welcomes the Obama administration's moves to stimulate car and truck sales.

"We appreciate President Obama's commitment to the U.S. auto industry," Ford spokesman Mark Truby said. "Ford is in a different position and is not seeking emergency taxpayer assistance. However, we are taking decisive action to transform our business and win new customers."

Ford already has reached the sort of game-changing agreements with the United Auto Workers and bondholders that have so far eluded General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. It says these deals will make it competitive with foreign rivals.

"In my book, Ford is the winner," said Gerald Meyers, an auto industry expert at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and the former CEO of American Motors. "Unless the market gets appreciably worse, Ford is going to come out looking stronger and more enlightened than the other American car and truck manufacturers."

He said Ford could still benefit as much as GM or Chrysler from the sort of fleet modernization program Obama talked about Monday.

Ford said it is intrigued by the success of a similar program in Germany that pays consumers to scrap their old vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models.

"It's proven to be successful," Truby said. "We see it as a win for customers and a win for the environment. We're strongly supportive of it."

However, Ford executives have signaled they would not support a program that applies only to American automakers.

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