Ford Motor Co. Chairman Harold Poling says the second-biggest U.S. carmaker's annual dividend is currently not vulnerable to reduction, but he added that this could change, depending on the economy and Ford sales.

Several corporations, including Bank of Boston Corp. and Chase Manhattan Corp., have recently announced plans to slash their dividends amid flagging profits and the weakening economy."I would not characterize our dividend as vulnerable," Poling told reporters late last week following remarks at a ceremony at a local high school.

But he said, "the basic economic condition and the success of our products will determine" Ford's ability to maintain its $3 common stock dividend.

He also did not rule out a change in his stance. "Should a dramatic change occur, I don't know" if the dividend would have to be altered, Poling said.

Like the banking and computer industries, among others, automakers have been hit by eroding earnings and heated competition.

Automakers also have been concerned that the political and economic fallout from the Mideast crisis will hurt their ability to build and sell big cars, which earn them fat profits.