For much of the 1990s, Ford appeared to be running ahead of other U.S. auto makers–with the top-selling car, vastly popular sport-utility vehicles and overall good press. Then in 2000, something happened–Ford tripped. Suddenly, the No. 2 car maker found itself at the center of a controversy over the safety of its best-selling SUV, the Explorer. The next year it reported a $1 billion write-down stemming from flawed hedging strategies for the precious metal palladium. It ended last year $5.45 billion in the hole.

As 2002 dawned, however, $162.4 billion Ford was working hard to get back on track. And nowhere is that more apparent than in its treasury operations, which won the 2002 Alexander Hamilton Award for Overall Excellence in Treasury Management, along with two gold awards for its cash management and credit risk management operations.

The treasury's enhanced efficiencies and innovative solutions–for which it is being honored by AHA–come at a crucial time for Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford. Since January, the auto maker has been immersed in a restructuring, the success of which rests in part on the consolidation efforts that have transformed the far-flung treasury functions into a more streamlined operation.

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