DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. intends to continue working with Magna International Inc., Ford's CFO said today, even though the Canadian supplier is acquiring a controlling stake in European rival Opel.
But Ford will work closely with Magna to make sure the automaker's intellectual property is protected, said Ford CFO Lewis Booth.
Magna is a “very good supplier” and important to Ford, Booth told analysts at an event in Frankfurt. Last week, General Motors Co. agreed to sell a majority of Opel, its European unit, to Magna and its partner, Sberbank of Russia.
“They've given us assurances they're going to separate their businesses and make sure there's a good firewall between their new acquisition and their traditional supplier business,” Booth said.
He also told analysts that the economy remains Ford's biggest worry despite signs of improvement.
Scrappage programs have limited the industry sales decline in Europe's 19 main markets to only 7 to 10 percent below 2008 levels, Booth said. But underlying demand in Europe remains weak, and sales are likely to keep falling in 2010, he said.
Next year's sales in Europe could fall up to an additional 10 percent, Booth said, adding, “We expect a very weak first quarter.”
Ford forecasts 2010 European industry sales of 13 million to 14.5 million vehicles. Its sales estimate for 2009 is 15 million to 15.5 million.
In the United States, Ford is sticking with its forecast of 2009 sales of 10.5 million to 11 million vehicles, Booth said. Ford's 2010 estimate is also unchanged at 12.5 million.