Ford Credit earned $386 million in the third quarter of 2000, up $69 million, or 22 percent, from third quarter 1999, Chairman and CEO Donald Winkler announced today.

Earnings for the first nine months of 2000 total $1,126 million, up 18 percent from the first nine months of 1999.

Compared with the third quarter of 1999, the increase in earnings reflects primarily higher volume and an improved net financing margin, offset partially by higher credit losses and operating costs associated with the restructuring of North American operations. After-tax return on average equity for the quarter improved to 12.9 percent from 11.4 percent a year earlier.

"We are very pleased with our strong earnings in the third quarter," Winkler said. "Based on our accomplishments during the first nine months of the year, we are confident that we will achieve our milestones for the year -- 10 percent earnings growth and improved return on equity. Our record financing volume and market share are the result of hard work by our talented and dedicated employees."

Ford Credit's total net finance receivables increased to $157 billion at Sept. 30, compared with $134 billion in the same period of the previous year.

Ford Credit is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company and is the world's largest automotive finance company. Now in its 41st year, Ford Credit provides vehicle financing in 40 countries to more than 10 million customers and 12,400 automotive dealers.

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