Fitch upgrades Ford to investment grade image

The Fitch Ratings agency lifted Ford’s credit rating to “BBB-” from “BB+” , noting the auto maker’s improved financial performance, balance sheet and product portfolio over the past several years.

Still, the agency said Ford also faced the risk of slower-than-expected global demand for vehicles, particularly in Europe.

“Fitch believes that the work that has been accomplished has put the company in a solid position to withstand the significant cyclical and secular pressures faced by the global auto industry,” the credit ratings agency said in a release.

Ford lost its investment grade status in 2005 as it was losing billions of dollars when the SUV and truck boom went bust.

As part of its turnaround, Ford borrowed more than $23 billion in late 2006 secured by most of Ford’s assets, including the Blue Oval logo.

“We are very pleased with today’s decision by Fitch” Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said in a statement. “It is an important proof point of the continued progress the Ford team is making with our One Ford plan.”

Last year, the Dearborn-based company reported net income of $20.2 billion, or $4.94 per share, but much of that came from an accounting change in the fourth quarter.

Ford, which reinstated its dividend in December and is due to report first-quarter results April 27, was up 2.4% before the bell Tuesday.