Although most don't expect Ford Motor Co. to meet the near-$10 billion in ABS that it issued in the third quarter, the company is still a contender for the No. 1 spot this year, though will likely fall just under GMAC, which issues both auto and real estate ABS.

Players expect that Ford's mammoth $10 billion debt issuance last month will quell some of its funding appetite, as the corporation has alternated between the two types of debt issuance in over the last few years, though clearly increasing its use of ABS.

"We obviously use the two channels in conjunction with one another," said an official in the ABS group at Ford.

Still, the company has flooded the market already this year with close to $16.5 billion, according to Thomson Financial. This is partly attributable to favorable conditions in the ABS market, as well as Ford's corporate debt rating being downgraded several times in 2001.

A story in last Tuesday's Wall Street Journal noted the depleted cash reserves across players in the auto industry, with emphasis on Ford, whose net cash, defined as total cash minus total liabilities, fell to roughly $915 million from a peak of $14.7 billion in 2000, according to the article.

That figure does not count Ford's Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust, which would have put Ford's cash at approximately $2.2 billion at the end of the third quarter.

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