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Ford digs $2-billion hole in '91

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it lost nearly $2.3-billion in 1991, the worst year ever for the company that ushered in the automobile age in the United States.

The nation's No. 2 automaker reported a fourth-quarter loss of $475.7-million, or $1.03 a share, compared with a loss of $518.5-million, or $1.11 a share, in the 1990 quarter. Ford said cost-cutting narrowed the loss.

For the full year, Ford lost $2.26-billion, exceeding its previous record loss of $1.54-billion in 1980. In 1990 Ford reported a $860.1-million profit.

Like other automakers, Ford's sales were ravaged by the recession that began in July 1990. Consumers, wrestling with heavy debts and worried about their jobs, have cut back sharply on their spending.

In 1991, Ford's revenues fell 9.6 percent to $88.29-billion, and its share of the U.S. auto market fell by 1 percent to 20.1 percent.

"Many of the problems that affected us in 1991 are continuing into 1992 _ soft economies, intense competition and excess industry capacity," said Ford Chairman Harold Poling in a statement.

Together the three largest U.S. automakers are expected to report losses totaling $6-billion for 1991, a record for the domestic industry.

Last week Chrysler Corp., the No. 3 automaker, reported a fourth-quarter profit but a loss of $795-million for the year. The small quarterly profit came from a one-time gain on the sale of Chrysler's share of a joint venture.

General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, is expected to report 1991 results this month.

Analysts say GM probably lost about $3-billion last year.

Ford's massive losses for the quarter and year came despite record profits in financial services. Ford's financial service earnings rose 22 percent for the year to a record $927.5-million. In addition to its auto-financing arm, Ford owns one of the biggest savings and loans in the United States, 1st Nationwide Bank.

David McCammon, a Ford vice president and treasurer, said he expects to see a substantial improvement in sales this year, but he declined to say whether Ford would return to profitability.

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