Ford Motor Company, the globe's number three carmaker, has abandoned its self-imposed earnings goal for 2005, warning it will fall some 25% short of earlier estimates.

Management shortcomings are not to blame, of course. Ford's finger points instead at "ferocious" competition in the North American market, high fuel prices and soaring staff healthcare costs.

According to a company statement late Friday, Ford has abandoned hopes of hitting its target of $7 billion (€5.42bn; £3.72bn) in pretax earnings by 2006. A similar warning was recently issued by numero uno auto manufacturer General Motors.

Says chairman/ceo Bill Ford: "We will not mortgage Ford's future by chasing an objective set under vastly different market and economic conditions.

Continues the current incumbent of the motor monarchy: "We are unwilling to cut the essential investments in the products, technologies, infrastructure and expanding markets that are the very building blocks of our future."

The company's shares sagged by around five percent to $10.35 in after-hours trading on Friday.

Ford's advertising business in North America and across the globe is mostly handled by agencies within the WPP Group - inside whose executive shirt-collars beads of sweat are this morning forming.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff