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It may not be a giant radioactive lizard, but Ford is stomping all over Japan's auto industry.
BOSTON — First, some full disclosure.
I was born and raised in Detroit as the proud son, grandson, nephew and brother of autoworkers. Nearly everyone in my family works (or has worked) for one of the Big Three, or for the suppliers that feed and fuel that powerful economic engine.
Like most Detroiters, we lived and died by the tumults of the auto industry.
General Motors and Ford wages put food on my family's table and sent me to college. I spent my 1970s childhood worrying: will Mom and Dad lose their jobs? And, most threateningly, will Japan's automakers kill off our gritty, car-choked hometown?
For as everyone knew back then, Detroit was churning out enormous, gas-guzzling cars that broke down, or in the infamous case of the Ford Pinto, could explode on impact. Stealthy Japanese automakers, meanwhile, became the very model of small car fuel efficiency and quality.
To those of us in Detroit, Japan wasn't a faraway and exotic land of neon, sushi and glamorous geisha girls. It was Godzilla — a murderous and grotesque monster determined to stomp out our fair city.
So I hope you'll forgive the air of triumphalism in this column, which I'll get out of the way now: Take that, Japan.
I'm referring to this week's two most fascinating pieces of global economic news: Ford's profits rebirth and the recall disaster at Toyota (and, to a much lesser extent, Honda, which also announced a recall this week).
First, the good news.
Ford posted a profit in 2009 of $2.7 billion dollars. This balance sheet renaissance was occuring even as — east on I-94 and north on I-75 from its Dearborn headquarters — GM and Chrysler were surviving thanks only to billions of government bailout dollars.
Even more astonishing, Ford's turnaround follows the company's $14.7 billion dollar loss in 2008.
“During the worst economic recession in 30 or 40 years, because of the strength of the plan we put in place a few years ago, we were not only able to survive but also to create a foundation that is delivering now profitable growth," Ford's CEO Alan Mulally said upon release of the report. Mulally also said that Ford is on track to turn a profit this year, too.