Wind back the clock to 2006. Ford (NYSE: F ) has just handed the reins of the company to Alan Mulally and then proceeded to lose $30 billion over the next two years -- a ridiculously large amount. It was a rough patch for the American icon that once revolutionized the auto industry. The Blue Oval had seen better days.
Mulally had his hands full and set forth his "One Ford" plan for the company to begin its restructuring. His "One Ford" strategy was a huge success, and its turnaround was much quicker than anyone figured possible. It turned a profit much earlier than anyone expected, in 2009, about the time its crosstown rivals filed for bankruptcy protection. Ford's new vehicles -- the Fusion, Focus, and Escape, to name a few -- are proof that the Blue Oval is back.
The Focus has been a home run globally and was the world's best-selling nameplate last year. It's currently in competition to take home the crown for world's best-selling vehicle as well, although Toyota's Corolla will have something to say about that.
"Focus and Fiesta represent the culmination of our One Ford global product strategy," said Jim Farley, Ford's executive vice president of global marketing, in a Ford press release. "Through One Ford, we're able to bring economies of scale and fantastic value to customers all around the world."
The Focus is the 13th best-selling vehicle in the U.S. but is one of the hottest choices in China and in other international markets. Recently, the Focus added another impressive feat to its list of accolades that should sit very well with consumers.
The 2013 Ford Focus earned a "Top Safety Pick+" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway, or IIHS, according to a Ford press release. It was one of only six small cars to earn the top marks from IIHS, and it previously earned the federal government's highest five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Ford is committed to designing vehicles that help keep people safe," said Steve Kenner, global director of Ford's Automotive Safety Office, in a Ford press release. "We are constantly seeking innovative ways to help drivers avoid accidents and keep occupants safe when an incident does occur."
Don't tell your kid ...
According to Ford, the Focus also has features such as MyKey technology, an industry exclusive, which is designed for families with teenage drivers. It can be programed to limit the audio system to prevent cranky neighbors, and to restrict the vehicle's top speed of the vehicle to keep parents from worrying. Of course, it comes with the incessant charms and bells to remind the driver and passenger about seat belts, but MyKey goes one step further, muting the radio if the occupants aren't buckled. Pretty funny, in my opinion.
From an investing standpoint, the Focus has been instrumental in growing Ford's market share globally. China is already the world's largest and fastest-growing auto market, and the Focus has been a hot choice there, helping Ford with its goal of doubling market share in the region by 2015. This is one of the most important developments for Ford, because it's years behind market leaders General Motors and Volkswagen.
Another important factor with the global success of the Focus is the economies of scale it creates when its sales top 1 million, as they did last year. Ford has trimmed its number of platforms down from 27 in 2007, to its goal of having 80% of sales from 14 platforms next year -- a goal it's on pace to achieve. That means that as more and more sales ring up across fewer platforms, it secures Ford's already strong margins and profits going forward -- a great development for potential investors.
A decade ago, consumers and investors alike couldn't imagine any Detroit automaker that could produce a well-designed, valuable, fuel-efficient ride. Those days are gone. Ford's market share has surged in the U.S. more than any other full-line automaker this year because of success with its highly popular Fusion, Focus, Escape, and F-Series. Investors have enjoyed the ride as Ford's stock price has nearly doubled over the past 12 months -- and the good ride looks to continue thanks to success of the Focus and other vehicles as they begin to make their debuts overseas.
Ford and GM are great investing opportunities, and the best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich" names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.