As the economy and the car industry transform to lighter, more compact versions of their previous selves, the primary agent of change is cash. Ford CEO Alan Mulally took an opportunity this weekend to re-affirm his company's ability to stand on its own, without government-backed loans, however.

Speaking at a meeting of the National Automobile Dealers Association in New Orleans, Louisiana, Mulally said, "We don't want to borrow any more money. We have sufficient liquidity to fund our transformation plan, which means our business is in a relatively good shape," reports Reuters.

Relatively good shape is a surprisingly straightforward way of terming Ford's situation - better than rivals GM and Chrysler, at least on this account, but still not truly good. Ford has previously asked for a $9 billion open line of credit from Congress, but as yet that measure has not gained any traction. Still, Ford says it would only be using the credit line as a backup against unforeseen new difficulties; it has enough cash to get through the coming years in large part because it already took out $23 billion in loans in 2006.

That influx of liquid funds - cash - is what enables, for example, the buyout of labor contracts, the weathering of slow or non-existent sales revenue, and continued development of new models. Part of Ford's gambit relies on a predicted return to growth in sales beyond the current rate of about 10.5 million cars per year. A planned $825-$850 billion stimulus package from the Obama administration is hoped to drive sales back up above 12 million cars by the end of the year by putting money back in the hands of the consumer and making financing more affordable and available.

Between its own transformation plans and the government's economic measures, Ford sees its business turning around sometime during the second half of 2009. The industry, on the other hand, maintains fears for its future. Through the Michigan delegation of congressional representatives, the state has asked Congress for another $25 billion in loans, primarily for suppliers struggling to keep afloat.