Ford Motor Company announced ambitious plans Tuesday to expand global growth by 50 percent, to sales of more than eight million vehicles over the next five years.
CBS News Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis asked Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally how Ford intends to do that and what it will mean for jobs and consumers.
Since Mulally took the reins nearly five years ago, the company has streamlined operations and is now producing more fuel efficient and smaller vehicles -- a plan that's proven very successful. Ford earned $2.6 billion in the first quarter of 2011.
Mulally told Jarvis Ford plans to open new plants and that the economy is headed in the right direction.
Jarvis asked Mulally, "The projections that you've just put out are very optimistic. Fifty percent increase in production by mid-decade. Does that, to you, indicate that the world economy is getting better?"
Mulally said, "The real fundamental is the growth in the Asia-Pacific region, in addition to the little bit slower growth in the more mature markets. This is really about the soul of manufacturing in the United States. And that's being competitive on a global stage now."
Ford, Jarvis noted, is the one U.S. auto company that didn't take a government bailout. The company's profits have grown since the recession. When asked if the company plans to hire new employees in the U.S., Mulally said, "Yes. "
"Over the next two years, we're gonna be hiring nearly 7,000 new employees. Great careers in design, and manufacturing," he said.
Mulally added more jobs may be made available "as the economy comes back and we can increase production."
He said, "That'll determine, you know, what we do about further employment."
Jarvis asked, "Do you think that the manufacturing could potentially be moving overseas, or, you know, the new factory growth is going to be in places outside of the United States?"
Mulally said the company will "grow everywhere around the world."
"The markets are all growing nicely," he said. "It's still a great market, so we'll continue to increase production here. I think we'll see the most growth, of course, in the Asia-Pacific, where the economy is growing -- nearly 10 percent, especially, like, in China. So we'll continue to expand our operations everywhere we can sell these great vehicles."
Jarvis said, "Do you think it's safe to say that, with this focus on China and on India, perhaps there's a view that, here in the United States, things still hold a lot of uncertainty?"
The Ford executive said he's "very confident" that with federal fiscal and monetary policy, and the attention paid to economic development in the United States, "We're gonna get though this recession and keep expanding."
With more and more people buying cars in the U.S., Jarvis asked if this is an indication that the worst is behind for the country.
Mulally said, "This is a slower recovery than we've had in the past. But it is recovering. We were in a very deep hole with our recession. I'm very pleased that everybody's attention is on economic development, and growing our economy. I think it's so important that we all remember that the key to economic development and probable growth is our competitiveness. And so we're working to continue to improve that competitiveness every year."
Jarvis said on "The Early Show" part of that competitiveness is making more fuel-efficient vehicles, which Ford has committed to. Mulally said they're planning to heavily invest first in hybrid and then electric car technology.
She added, "He also said it's really helped the collective bargaining that he's done with the unions that populate Ford as far as employees go, that has helped them become more competitive, as well. Through concessions and through new negotiations about what they get paid and how much their pensions are."
Co-anchor Erica Hill said, "So allow to pay those workers less basically, that's allowed them to be more competitive."
Jarvis added 55 percent of Ford's cars are projected to be small cars by 2020.
"There is a reason that they've (had big cars) in the past. They make more money on the big cars, the reality is they make higher margins on those cars, but they think now that they're expanding to the likes of Asia, they can make a lot of money by doing it with small cars because that's what they demand there."
Hill added, "That's right and that's what more folks are buying here."