US auto sales this year may not reach 13 million that was the low end of Ford Motor's range of estimates, chief financial officer Lewis Booth said.
Ford had forecast industrywide 2011 sales of 13 million to 13.5 million vehicles, including medium-and heavy-duty trucks, in its home market. Deliveries may rise to 12.7 million cars and light trucks this year, the average estimate of 18 analysts surveyed last month by Bloomberg. The average estimate in April was for 2011 sales of 13 million light vehicles.
Concerns about the economy and financial markets are further delaying purchases put off during the recession and early recovery, Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at JD Power & Associates, said at the time. He is among the 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg who have cut their full-year auto-sales estimates since the first quarter.
"We see signs of pent-up demand," Booth said, speaking at a UBS conference in London. "What it's going to take for that pent-up demand to emerge is some confidence in what the future will look like."
Ford anticipated a modest US recovery, "but we didn't expect it to be quite as slow as it's been."
US light-vehicle sales rose 11 per cent in 2010 to 11.6 million from the previous year's 10.4 million, which was the lowest total since 1982, according to industry researcher Autodata Corp. They averaged 16.8 million annually from 2000 to 2007.
Ford will return to an investment-grade credit rating "sooner rather than later," and the automaker won't resume paying a dividend until after that, Booth said. Standard and Poor's rates Ford's debt at BB-, three levels below investment grade, with a positive outlook. Structural costs related to new-model introductions may rise less than the $2 billion (Dh7.3 billion) originally forecast, he said.