Ford's Unlikely Hero Helps Speed Turnaround in Europe

Quarter after quarter Ford's (NYSE: F  ) stock price had been beaten down largely because investors were worried about its losses in Europe. That was partially justified as Ford lost $1.7 billion in the region last year and expects to lose more this year. That's a huge sum when you consider that Ford reported a net income of $5.6 billion last year. The story is different now because, as losses have narrowed, Ford's share price has risen and investors can see the light at the end of the tunnel, partly due to an unlikely hero: the EcoBoost Engine.

Unlikely hero
The idea of any Detroit automaker building a popular fuel-efficient engine was laughable a decade ago, making the EcoBoost a very unlikely hero for the folks at the Blue Oval. Ford's 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine won the "International Engine of the Year" award for 2012 and 2013 and is continuing to be added as options for many global vehicles. Most recently Ford put the 1.0-liter engine in its EcoSport that launched in India and China; the engine will finally debut later this year in North America in the Fiesta.

"The 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine has been an incredible success for us – both with customers and media – and demand is increasing as word spreads," said Barb Samardzich, vice president, product development, Ford of Europe, in a press release. "The 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine combines the benefits people expect from a small engine, in terms of fuel efficiency and low CO2 emissions, and the punch and power of a traditional 1.6-liter engine."

Fuel economy remains most consumers' top priority when purchasing vehicles:

Graph by author. Source: Consumer Reports.

Consumers have flocked to Ford's vehicles using the 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine in Europe; it accounted for increasing share of orders: 44% for the B-MAX, 32% for the Focus, 26% for the Fiesta, and 24% for the C-MAX, according to Ford. 

Turning around
Even amid a European market still in decline Ford managed to increase its wholesale volume, market share, revenues, pre-tax profits, and operating margins as of the second-quarter – a fantastic development for investors. Part of that success is definitely due to its popular, fuel-efficient vehicles with the EcoBoost engine option.

July marked the fourth consecutive month of market share gains for Ford, up to 8% from 7.6% last year. Another positive development was that Ford's sales to rental companies, which tend to be less profitable and also lower the resale value of Ford vehicles, decreased from 32% to 24% of sales. That's better than the industry average, as is illustrated in Ford's sharp retail share rise:

Graph by author. Source: Ford press release.

Bottom line
Ford has lost $810 million in Europe through the first half of 2013 and that prompted management to lower loss expectations from $2 billion this year down to $1.8 billion. Ford has a chance to come in under that estimate especially if consumers continue to flock to its popular fuel-efficient vehicles. Ford recently introduced a second shift at its Cologne, Germany, engine plant to double output of its EcoBoost engines to more than 1,000 per day. That will increase production to 165,000 engines in 2013, and 200,000 in 2014, solidifying that Ford's unlikely hero will speed up the company's turnaround in the dismal European region – a big win for Ford investors.

Ford stands to reap big profits when Europe's economy turns around and much like Europe many global regions are still stuck in neutral. Their resurgence could result in windfall profits for select companies. A recent Motley Fool report, "3 Strong Buys for a Global Economic Recovery," outlines three companies that could take off when the global economy gains steam. Click here to read the full report!

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9/30/2016 4:03 PM
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