Against a backdrop of continued turmoil, Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford Jr. declines to quell public speculation that the tenure of President and Chief Executive Jacques Nasser will end soon.

"I don’t want to get into that," Mr. Ford says when asked to comment on persistent rumors of an imminent management shakeup at the beleaguered automaker.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nasser continues to put on a brave face, telling The Detroit News Ford "is still a very strong company." He also declines comment on the controversy, saying one word about the speculation is "one too many."

Meanwhile, financial woes continue to mount for the No.2 automaker, agreeing to settle a California lawsuit expected to cost Ford hundreds of millions of dollars. The suit stems from a claim that an ignition system installed on an estimated 22 million vehicles is defective and leads to engine stalling.

The deal, which is structured as a warranty extension and not a recall, affects most Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles built from 1983 through 1995.

It comes on the heels of a $3 billion second quarter charge Ford agrees to undertake to replace Firestone tires, some of which have been deemed defective by the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. Defective Firestone tires, most of which were original equipment on Ford Explorer, have been linked to more than 250 deaths and 800 injuries. Meanwhile, Ford has suggested it will try to recoup the cost through legal action against Firestone.

Other indicators of Ford’s financial woes continue to surface with the confirmation that the automaker is pulling the plug on its breakthrough Model E program that was to equip Ford’s 250,000 employees worldwide with computers, printers and discounted Internet service for their personal use at home. About 166,000 employees have benefited since the program was announced last year.

In addition, Ford prices $9.4 billion in debt for itself and its financing arm, Ford Motor Credit Co. The new debt, which Ford says will address existing debt and other purposes, consists of four dollar-denominated offerings and one euro-denominated offering. Maturities range from two to 30 years and are geared toward institutional investors.

On the program front, the Wall Street Journal reports a plan to build an integrated starter-generator (ISG) version of Explorer is on hold. The automaker declines comment but Mr. Ford confirms a plan to build Ford Escape as a gas-electric hybrid in 2003 is "on track."