Let me preface this column by saying that I am not against American automakers. On the contrary, most of my relatives drive Ford (NYSE:F) trucks. (I'm partial to the GM (NYSE:GM) brands, myself.) Nor do I think that Ford's "2005 Financial Milestones," published yesterday, are necessarily unattainable. I just think they're a bit optimistic.

In fiscal 2005, Ford expects to earn pre-tax profit of about $5.35 billion, translating into roughly $1.85 per share. Last year, the company earned $850 million from its automotive business (did you know they had any others? They do) and $5 billion from its financial services division. Ford's looking for an extra $900 million from automotive next year but expects $1.4 billion less from financial services as higher interest rates squeeze the margins on cut-rate financing deals. Put it all together, and the company's expecting to earn about $500 million less in 2005 than it did in 2004.

Now you might think that aiming to reduce profits by half a billion dollars is not a particularly ambitious goal. But consider how Ford might fall short of even that mark. First off, the company expects to earn just $0.30 of the year's hoped-for $1.85 in profits in Q1 2005. However, Q1 will be the only quarter in which Ford's new Escape gas-electric hybrid owns the market for hybrid SUVs. By Q2, the Escape will no longer be the only game in town as Ford nemesis Toyota (NYSE:TM) begins to field its own candidates: the luxury Lexus RX400h and the more pedestrian Toyota Highlander.

Of course, Ford isn't depending on hybrids to power its profits (although considering Toyota's success with the technology, perhaps it should). Ford's always been an internal combustion engine-lover (ICE), emphasizing in particular ICE SUVs and pickups. Ford needs, and intends, to gain market share in this and other crucial markets -- hence, it's predicted doubling of automotive profits next year. But it's going to be rough going. By 2005, Nissan (NASDAQ:NSANY) should be working the kinks out of its new Armada SUV and Titan pickup. Both of those can only steal Ford's existing market share. (Since they entered the market only in 2004, they've hardly had time to acquire much market share for Ford to steal itself.) Later in the year, looms the threat of new pickup offerings from Korea's Hyundai and Kia. While a pickup offering from either of those automakers will likely receive at best a lukewarm reception from U.S. truck fans, again, neither company has any share of the U.S. truck market at risk. But they could certainly steal at least some share from Ford's thriftier customers.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any company mentioned in this article.