The $23.5 billion loan Ford received in 2006 that kept the Michigan automaker out of bankruptcy court - unlike cross-town rivals General Motors and Chrysler -- but the resulting debt could be threatening the company's turnaround plan.

Ford may have posted a $2.1 billion profit during the first quarter, but the Blue Oval is still fighting a mountain of debt. Helped along by that 2006 loan, Ford now has $34.3 billion in debt - well above the $17 billion debt GM carried as it exited bankruptcy last year.

Although Ford has established a good head of steam during the early part of 2010, the automaker's debt load could slow the company's momentum in the coming years. Ford paid $1.5 billion in debt interest last year, taking away funding from its future vehicle projects.

Ford's turnaround plan hasn't jumped off the track yet, but investors have become wary of the company's debt load and pending turmoil in the European market. Ford's stock hit a five-year high last week, but has stumbled over the last two days. "The business environment remains challenging," Ford CEO Alan Mulally said. "But we are committed to remain absolutely focused on our business plan."

Mulally added that investors should temper expectations as the company likely won't repeat its first quarter results throughout the year.


1. 'Ford's hurdle now...' view