DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. apparently slowed its cash burn during the fourth quarter of 2008, but the company is using cash fast enough that it likely will need to tap more funding this year.
Ford, the only U.S. automaker operating without federal loans, said last week that it finished 2008 with less than $15 billion in cash on hand.
The company would not provide a precise amount but shared the guidance after CEO Alan Mulally told Fox Business Network that Ford had $15 billion in cash. Mulally later said he misspoke.
Ford ended the third quarter with $18.9 billion in cash and a burn rate for the quarter of $2.57 billion a month. Ford said it would narrow that burn rate during the fourth quarter, which company executives reconfirmed last week. That means Ford's fourth-quarter cash burn likely came in somewhere between a monthly rate of $1.3 billion — which would have taken Ford's cash down to $15 billion — and $2.57 billion.
"We're very conscious of cash," Mulally told Fox.
In addition to its current cash position, Ford has access to credit lines of $10.7 billion. Analysts have said Ford needs to keep a minimum of $10 billion on hand to operate.
With the grim sales outlook, Ford may need to tap its credit line soon. The company expects first-quarter industry sales to stay around the mid-10 million sales rate of late last year. Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields said last week that the economy will dictate when Ford uses that additional financing.