Later this month Ford (NYSE: F ) will be announcing its first-quarter earnings, and I expect good things. In fact, the first quarter should shape up to be a great one for cumulative sales. The Escape and the Explorer have set record sales in previous months and don't look to be slowing down. The Fusion is selling so fast that dealers can't keep it on their lots, and plant capacity is overwhelmed trying produce enough of the sedan. I suppose that's a good problem to have, considering nearly a decade ago Ford – like General Motors – could hardly give vehicles away. But there are two serious road bumps for Ford investors that could easily derail Ford's stock price from increasing in the near future. Let's take a look and see what we can expect.
If you're like me, you have to be tired of hearing the doom and gloom surrounding Europe's markets. Unfortunately as they say – the night is darkest right before dawn. That seems to hold true with Europe, as Ford expects to lose closer to $2 billion this year before cost-cutting measures begin to subdue the losses. If you think that's a ridiculous amount of money to subtract off the bottom line, you're right. That's part of the reason – while everything else is going well – that Ford's stock seems stuck in neutral after a decent rally through January.
Fear not, I think this is the time to jump in and buy Ford's stock. I have no doubt that Ford can and will fix this problem. Consider that Ford faced a much worse situation here in America while losing $30 billion between 2006 and 2008. That's not a typo: $30 billion. All the sudden $2 billion doesn't seem so bad. Also consider the timeline in which Ford was able to return to profitability in 2009 – far ahead of schedule.
What you need to watch for in Ford's first-quarter release is the amount lost in Europe. I have a bad feeling it could exceed $500 million, and if it does expect to hear more doom and gloom. I am hopeful that this year's success with the very profitable F-Series, as well as a surge in China, will be enough to help mitigate those Europe losses. On to the second must-fix item.
Oh, Lincoln, how I loathe you so far. You managed to get outsold by the Mustang alone in 2012. You managed to be doubled in sales by the Escape. And I won't even dig into how you compare to Focus sales globally – it's embarrassing. Investors need the Lincoln to be successful for Ford's revenues and profit growth to be successful. Ford needs a luxury line, and needs it to be successful now. These are incremental sales we're talking about, as Lincoln vehicles don't compete with the Fusion, Focus, or others. Here's what you should expect for Lincoln sales in the first quarter – the Lincoln MKZ launch was a total flop. It wasted advertising during the Super Bowl since it couldn't deliver vehicles to dealers as promised – causing canceled orders and headaches.
That said, Lincoln sales will be extremely important to watch in the second quarter. We need to see a strong sales increase for the MKZ to give investors an idea whether the Lincoln brand can be a success, or if we need to be hesitant with our Ford investment. Ford needs the Lincoln brand to be successful – period.
You can expect the losses in Europe, whether smaller or larger than expected, to inflict volatility on the stock price. Be knowledgeable and you'll be able to profit now or add to a position for future profits. Ford is here to stay and will do well in the future – just get in at a good price. I'm still very comfy at around $13 per share, are you?
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