2 Regions Ford Motor Co. Investors Need To Watch In 2014

Some Ford investors headed to the door last month when the automaker released its 2014 pre-tax guidance. But for those who are sticking around, here are two things to watch in 2014.

Jan 7, 2014 at 4:19PM

Focusst
Ford's Focus has been a huge hit globally. Photo credit: Ford Motor Co.

Ford (NYSE:F) just closed the books on one of the finest years in company history. The Blue Oval doubled its dividend, cut its underfunded pension in half, and continued to design vehicles that consumers are driving off the dealer lots in droves. I've discussed how investors need to watch CEO Alan Mulally's situation, as well as the 23 global launches of new or refreshed vehicles in 2014. But equally important is how Ford drives ahead in two key markets: Europe and China.

Europe
Ford has made great progress in Europe in narrowing losses faster than expected, and 2014 will be critical for the "One Ford" plan as the company launches more than double the number of vehicles around the world as it did last year. Ford is trying to drive stronger global brands and business through quality vehicles now for its broad goal of sustainable profitability.

F
Graph by author. Information from Ford's SEC filings.

You can see in the chart above the substantial progress made over the last few quarters in Europe. However, Ford in 2014 anticipates incurring restructuring costs of about $400 million related to depreciation of plant assets and production plants, and this will be reported in Europe's operating results. Ford also expects special-item charges between $400 million and $500 million related to personnel separations; these, though, will not be reported in Europe's operating results. In addition to those charges, expect Ford's research and development and engineering costs to be slightly elevated as the company continues on its goal of launching 25 new vehicles within five years.

It's possible we won't see the same drastic level of progress in Europe in 2014 that we did last year, although the company stands by its prediction of breaking even, or turning a small profit, on the continent in 2015. This year will give investors an immense amount of information of how to gauge higher costs, special items, and pre-tax earnings to better predict when Ford will show a profit in the region. When that happens, it will remove a huge burden from Ford's share price and will essentially send at least $1 billion annually, gauged by current losses, back to its bottom-line earnings.

China
Ford was a latecomer to the Chinese market and now has a lot of ground to make up on foreign automaker leaders General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Volkswagen. Even with production constraints Ford managed to grow sales in China nearly 50% last year.

F
Graph by author. Information from Ford's monthly sales releases.

Ford expects that growth to continue; it's roughly halfway toward its goal of doubling its market share from 3% to 6% by the end of 2015. As more vehicles are launched in China, including the Mustang for the first time and the Lincoln lineup, Ford will need to add more production capacity to capture its sales potential. The company plans to have two facilities in China start production this year, with two more coming online in 2015.

Extra production capacity will enable Ford to grow sales and top-line revenue, while two potential mistakes by competitors may give the Blue Oval an additional edge in China.

Japanese automakers are just beginning to recover from a yearlong backlash by Chinese consumers after Japan's controversial purchase of a group of disputed islands sparked national protests in China. That helped Ford to edge out Toyota (NYSE:TM)and Honda (NYSE:HMC) in China last year after the Japanese car makers had largely led their U.S. rival for most of the last decade.

Just before the new year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a shrine in Tokyo that honors the country's war dead, including top military personnel convicted as war criminals after World War II. That drew another angry response from China.

"We're still at a stage where we need to carefully monitor the impact, but it's obvious that this only has a negative impact on Japan," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Asset Management  in Tokyo, told Bloomberg. "The visit poses great geopolitical risks."

It's unclear how large of an effect this will have on Japanese automakers, but it will clearly be something to watch as sales unfold in early 2014.

Another potential misstep was General Motors' recent recall of close to 1.5 million vehicles in China due to potential safety issues. The recall affected two high-volume and mainstream cars, the Buick Excelle and the Chevrolet Sail. There are so many recalls in the automotive industry, chances are this won't drastically alter General Motors' success.

These troubles for Ford's competitors may not seem huge, but in an industry where even a fraction of market share change is a major development, this might be all Ford needs to secure a strong start to 2014. 

The automotive industry is rapidly changing, which automakers are the best investments in 2014?
U.S. automakers boomed after WWII, but the coming boom in the Chinese auto market will put that surge to shame! As Chinese consumers grow richer, savvy investors can take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the help from this brand-new Motley Fool report that identifies two automakers to buy for a surging Chinese market. It's completely free -- just click here to gain access.

Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.

 


Compare Brokers