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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GM in the Black, Ford Posting Losses

DETROIT -- The news from Ford and General Motors could not have been more different this week.

GM said it would make money in the fourth quarter after nearly two years of dismal numbers, while Ford posted the worst annual loss in its 103-year history.

But despite the disparity in black ink, the tale of the nation's two largest automakers is essentially the same -- high labor costs, the over-reliance on trucks and sport utility vehicles for profits and few cars that people want to buy. Against that backdrop, Toyota, on Friday announced that global production last year surged 10 percent, bringing it just inches away from edging out GM as the world's No. 1 automaker.

The essential difference between Ford and GM, some industry analysts say, is that GM went into the tank first and is ahead in the restructuring game.

"I consider Ford to be in crisis and GM to be in transition," said Gerald Meyers, a former chairman of American Motors who now teaches at the University of Michigan. "The future is not clear yet at General Motors. There is a future. It's just a matter of how much and when, and that's a big step ahead of Ford."

GM hit the bottom with a $10.6 billion loss in 2005. Through three quarters of last year it lost $3 billion but says it will make money in the fourth quarter. Nevermind those accounting problems that will force it to restate retained earnings.

GM used 2006 to restructure, getting more than 34,000 production workers to take buyouts or early retirement offers and cutting its structural costs by $9 billion on an annual basis. It also rolled out new pickup trucks and cars.

Ford is following GM's formula but is about a year behind, said Burnham Securities analyst David Healy.

New chief executive Alan Mulally, hired late last year from aerospace giant Boeing, says the company is on track toward turning a profit in 2009.

"The biggest difference is GM is on track. They have a mission. When I talk to the people there, when you see the products, you get a feeling of confidence and empowerment," said Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst at the Global Insight research and consulting firm.

"With Ford, all we hear about is conflict, turmoil, uncertainty. Internally this is at all levels," she said.