DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is about $900 million away from posting a new record annual net profit.
Ford earned $7.2 billion for 1999, the automaker's current best net profit for a year. For the first nine months this year, net income totaled $6.4 billion, putting it in range to best 1999.
Last week, Ford posted a record third-quarter profit. Strong transaction prices on vehicles and low incentive spending helped the company post net income of $1.7 billion, compared with $997 million in the year-earlier period.
Ford overcame a loss in Europe to post its sixth straight quarterly profit, and CFO Lewis Booth said the automaker will be "solidly profitable" in the current quarter, too.
"This is a very solid year in total, and we're projecting continued improvement next year," Booth said at a media briefing last week.
Third-quarter revenue fell $1.3 billion from a year earlier to $29 billion, reflecting the August sale of Volvo. Excluding Volvo, revenue rose $1.7 billion.
The company said it will reduce debt by $10.8 billion this year. By year end, cash and debt will be roughly equal, which will help the automaker return to an investment-grade credit rating.
Ford ended the third quarter with $26.4 billion of automotive debt. It paid off its obligation to a UAW health care fund, known as the VEBA, on Friday, Oct. 29, bringing debt down to $22.8 billion.
Ford has reduced its U.S. dealership count 21 percent since August 2006 to 3,456 stores, Booth said. So far this year, Ford has incurred a cost of $290 million in dealership reductions, most of that a result of the automaker's decision to discontinue the Mercury brand by Dec. 31.