Many investors have been calling shares of General Motors (NYSE: GM ) a buy over the past month, despite the worsening situation with its recall issues and criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney General. However, the stock has finally started to break down, closing below $32 on Monday for the first time since June. So for those frustrated investors, I have a simple alternative: Buy Ford (NYSE: F ) .
While both stocks are cheap, valuation-wise, General Motors simply has too many headwinds surrounding it. The automaker now expects the recalls to cost $1.3 billion. Coupled with separate first quarter costs totaling near $750 million and several potential multi-billion settlements in the future, this automaker certainly has its issues, (which can be read about in further detail, here.)
Ford on the other hand does not have these headwinds.
So what does Ford have?
Ford boast some great prospects, and I'm not sure why investors aren't showing it more love. Everyone seems to be clamoring about General Motors' valuation, but Ford isn't expensive by any means.
In fact, none of the automakers are that expensive -- with the exception of Tesla Motors. Ford trades at just 8.5 times next year's earnings, compared to the S&P 500's 12-month forward P/E ratio of 15.5 times.
Earnings valuation alone isn't a reason to buy the stock, but Ford has other catalysts we'll discuss momentarily. Automakers -- like utility, material and old technology stocks -- often times trade at a discount to the broader market (and tend to do so for a very, very long time).
Ford has held up remarkably well over the past several months, while some other stocks are getting violently sold off. Shares are up just north of 4% in the past month, and I think a lot of that has to do with the low valuation and positive outlook for the business.
Ford is introducing a lot of new vehicles this year (23 to be exact), but none seems to be more of a potential game-changer than the new, aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup truck.
The Fool's Brian Pacampara put out an interesting piece recently detailing some notes from a Deutsche Bank upgrade. In it he quotes the analyst: "According to Deutsche, Ford's risk to reward trade-off is rather attractive at this point. '[W]e now believe that Ford's new F150 will be significantly more cost competitive than we originally perceived (the aluminum body may only add $750-$800 cost, and there have been opportunities to save elsewhere in the vehicle),' said Lache."
Many investors worried about the potential cost hike for each new truck, and whether that cost would hurt margins. But at only $750-$800 per truck, margins shouldn't feel much of a pinch, especially if the company can cut costs elsewhere in the vehicle. Hopefully, the number one selling vehicle in the U.S. will experience a nice sales boost due to improved fuel economy from the vehicle's lighter weight.
Admittedly, Ford has significantly lower market share in China than General Motors or BMW, but it doesn't mean CEO Alan Mulally isn't focused on the region.
The automaker has invested significant sums in recent years (some $5 billion) in order to benefit from the growing middle class and exploding auto sales. Recently, the company posted a 57% increase in first quarter sales in China.
This is very encouraging, especially when coupled with the improving European situation. As pointed out by the Fool's Daniel Miller, Ford's European sales increased 11% in the first quarter.
Mulally has consistently stated that his goal was to be at break-even operation in Europe by mid-decade.
But given how well the plan has worked and the success of the company's new vehicles in the region, it has led CFO Bob Shanks to speak a bit more optimistically on the European situation: "This still leaves us firmly on track, maybe more firmly on track, to a profit, not breakeven, but a profit by 2015."
Ford has impressive growth internationally, and U.S. sales continue to hum along, pressing the 16 million seasonally adjusted annual rate.
Along with a great auto sales environment, Ford has an attractive dividend yield of 3.2% and trades at a discount to the broader market (with a trailing P/E ratio of 9.1 compared to the S&P 500's 18.6).
The automaker has many positives going for it, led by a veteran CEO. And unlike General Motors, Ford does not have multibillion-dollar headwinds ahead.
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