Autos Weekly: Ford's Global Ups and Downs

General Motors made headlines this week with its announcement of an upcoming "summit meeting" for financial analysts, another sign that the General's IPO process might be getting under way. The Fool will be listening in on that summit -- we'll be posting our reactions on Wednesday -- but meanwhile, here are a few other stories you might have missed this week.

Tesla's totality of troubles
Tesla Motors is set to go public next week, and apparently that's not a moment too soon: According to a number of recent reports, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk -- and quite possibly Tesla Motors itself -- is out of cash.

Musk, who made a fortune co-founding PayPal and selling it to eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) for $1.5 billion, and who is currently in the midst of a messy divorce, said in a recent filing that he "ran out of cash" about four months ago. He told The New York Times that he put his last $35 million into Tesla, which not long ago was on "the edge of bankruptcy."

Tesla itself, of course, is famously a money pit -- the company has incurred some $290 million in losses since its founding in 2003. Its total revenue -- again, since 2003 -- stands at less than $150 million. That includes the $13.8 million that the company has made by selling carbon tax credits -- needed to meet California's strict emissions requirements -- to Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) since 2008.

Tesla's hoping to raise over $200 million next week, via its IPO and a related private $50 million stock sale to Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) . But it's fair to wonder how long that money will last: The company lost some $25.5 million in the first quarter of 2010.

Tata on the move
Add India's Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM  ) to the list of automakers bent on global domination: The makers of the Nano, the world's cheapest car, announced on Friday that it will be building a truck factory in South Africa, looking to increase sales in key developing African markets such as Zambia, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Tata, which acquired Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford (NYSE: F  ) in 2008, may have greater plans in mind: The company's board will meet on Monday to consider options for raising long-term funds -- as much as $541 million, according to some reports, which would be used to restructure its $4 billion in debt and to fund further, as-yet unspecified expansion plans.

Ford's global ups and downs
Tata isn't the only company looking at South Africa: Ford said this week that it would expand its South African truck plant, which produces Ford Ranger pickups for overseas markets, due to rapidly growing demand.

More significantly, Ford also announced that it would spend $450 million to build a major new car factory in Thailand, a key export hub for many Asian markets. Ford's presence in Asia has long trailed leaders General Motors and Volkswagen, and was for many years coupled with Mazda, which Ford once had a 33% stake in. Now, however, Ford is seeking to make up for lost time by moving away from Mazda and forging its own identity in Asia, with aggressive pushes already under way in India and China.

Meanwhile, however, Ford is bracing for a hit to European sales: Ford's European head, John Fleming, warned this week that second-quarter sales would be "much weaker" for Ford, with year-to-date sales down from weak 2009 numbers due to the discontinuation of various government car-buying incentives. Further pain may lie ahead, as the European auto industry as a whole has about 35% more production capacity than it needs, according to Fleming.

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Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. eBay and Ford are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on eBay. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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