Ford Motor Co., the auto giant that revved through the 1980s, has finally run out of gas, admitting it will lose money this quarter after eight years of non-stop growth.

"We do not expect to be profitable in the fourth quarter," spokesman Thomas Foote said.The bleak admission reveals the tough times hitting the auto industry as foreign rivals grow ever hotter, gas prices boom and Americans cut spending over fears of a recession.

Ford blamed weak domestic demand - sales of U.S.-built autos slumped more than 15 percent in the last 10 days of November - and lower production for the expected loss.

But it said the year as a whole would still be strong.

"We earned $1.4 billion during the three first quarters, so we will be profitable this year overall," Foote said.

Ford - whose name is slapped on one in five trucks and cars traveling America's highways - earned $3.8 billion in 1989.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Ford treasurer David McCammon said in an interview that the once gung-ho company would post a loss for the fourth quarter.

Ford would not disclose how big the loss would be, but analysts say it will be between $200 million and $400 million.

Ford shares fell 25 cents to $27.50 in midafternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. - Ford's key domestic rivals - are also expected to post losses this quarter.

Not since 1981 have all of the Big Three automakers posted losses at the same time, and Ford's quarterly loss would be its first since 1982 - the time of the last recession.