DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. said today it will sell its Newport Beach-based Ford Aerospace Corp. subsidiary and concentrate on other businesses at a time when defense spending is getting closer scrutiny in Washington.
The announcement was made just over a month after Chrysler Corp. announced it was putting its Chrysler Technologies Corp. up for sale in order to concentrate on its core businesses of selling and financing cars and trucks.
Ford's announcement, which confirmed weeks of rumors, was not seen as being as drastic as Chrysler's push back into the automotive business exclusively. Ford also owns First Nationwide Bank, among the largest in the savings-and-loan industry.
However, Ford's huge cash reserves of about $9 billion a year ago have been drained by acquisitions of the British luxury-car maker Jaguar PLC and the Associates Corp. financing company for a combined $5.85 billion.
"The decision to sell Ford Aerospace reflects the intention to concentrate our resources on our other businesses," Ford Chairman Donald Petersen said today.
Ford Aerospace has about 17,000 employees, including about 2,700 in Newport Beach. The company has most of its operations in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, California and the Washington area.
Ford Aerospace is involved primarily in space- and ground-based command, control, communications and intelligence systems; tactical weapons systems and professional services.
Ford Motor said in a news release that Ford Aerospace had about $1.8 billion in contracts last year and had a backlog of about $2 billion in contracts as of Dec. 31.
Ford got into the aerospace business in 1956 when it developed its Aeronutronic Division and expanded it when Ford acquired Philco Corp. in 1961.
The aerospace operation later built Johnson Space Center Mission Control Center, used for the first moon landing, and the Mariner IV satellite that provided the first fly-by pictures of Mars.
The Aeronutronics division in Newport Beach manufactures tactical weapons systems, including Sidewinder and Chaparral heat-seeking missiles.
The division is situated on 100 acres of ocean-view property leased from the Irvine Co. through 2045.