* Ford could lose $500 mln-$600 mln in Europe due to weak auto sales
* Overall financial outlook for company unchanged
* Rate of Europe losses in Q1 to be on par with Q4 results
By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co may lose between $500 million and $600 million this year in Europe, where auto sales are heading toward the low end of the company’s forecast, Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth said on Wednesday.
The second-largest U.S. automaker had projected 2012 industry sales between 14 million and 15 million in Europe, down from 15.3 million vehicles in 2011.
“We think Europe is much more likely now to be at the bottom end of the scale,” Booth told reporters at Ford’s global headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. If that happens, Ford is likely to lose between $500 million and $600 million in the region this year, he said.
Europe’s debt crisis has depressed demand for new vehicles in the 19 markets Ford tracks in the region, where automakers had already been contending with overcapacity, paper-thin margins and tough price competition.
Still, Ford is confident it will meet its overall financial outlook for the year, helped by strong results in North America.
“We feel okay about the guidance we’ve given for the total company,” Booth said.
Ford lost $190 million in the fourth quarter in Europe. Booth said he expected the rate of losses there to be similar or slightly worse in the first quarter of 2012.
After that, he said, Ford expects the rate to improve as it begins to introduce new vehicles to the marketplace.