After spending more than a year at a less-than-impressive two-star rank, Ford (NYSE: F ) has impressed enough top-performing members of our 165,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community to climb up to a more palatable three stars. A total of 9,598 members have given their opinion on the auto maker, with many of them offering analysis and commentary explaining the recent optimism.
CAPS members like the progress that Ford has made in working its way through the financial crisis and believe it's on the right track for more profits. The company reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings with profits in every geographic region, and even forecasts a profitable 2010 with a further increase in 2011. Along with U.S. peers General Motors and Chrysler, Ford started the third quarter with positive U.S. July sales gains, setting it apart from the declines at Japanese rivals Toyota (NYSE: TM ) and Honda (NYSE: HMC ) . July sales also rose more than four-fold in India where all-time-high car sales helped boost sales for Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM ) , leaving investors bullish on Ford's plans to expand in India and other markets like China and Japan.
The Detroit carmaker also significantly reduced its debt in the quarter and expects to continue paying down more, which, along with its strong profits, earned it an upgraded credit rating from both Standard & Poor's and Fitch. Ford is also aiming to regain its investment grade rating in the next couple of years.
Ford is also working closely with parts suppliers like TRW and Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI ) to increase efficiency. By simplifying its parts and using more common parts across multiple regions and models, the company is reducing costs that helps boost margins and hence increase its competitiveness.
Investors also see good potential in Ford's shift to greener cars. While other carmakers are pushing into the electric vehicle space -- such as Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA ) , who aims to introduce its electric sedan by 2012 -- Ford has plans for a couple of plug-in models in the next couple of years like the Focus. It's already working with Microsoft to utilize its Hohm energy management application for recharging the cars as well.
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