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Ford Motor Co (NYSE:F)
Q3 2019 Earnings Call
Oct 23, 2019, 5:00 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Holly, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome you to the Ford Motor Company's Third Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers' remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] After the question-and-answer session, there will be closing remarks. At this time. I would like to turn the call over to Lynn Antipas Tyson, Executive Director of Investor Relations. Lynn?

Lynn Antipas Tyson -- Executive Director of Investor Relations

Thank you, Holly. Welcome, everyone to Ford Motor Company's Third Quarter 2019 Earnings Call. Presenting today are Jim Hackett, our President and CEO, and Tim Stone, our Chief Financial Officer. Also joining us are Joe Hinrichs, President, Automotive; Jim Farley, President, New Businesses, Technology and Strategy; and David McClelland, CEO of Ford Credit. Jim Hackett will begin with a brief review of the quarter and progress against our strategic initiatives. Tim will follow with a more detailed look at our results and then we'll turn to Q&A. Following Q&A, Jim Hackett will have a few closing remarks.

Our comments today will include some non-GAAP references. These are reconciled to the most comparable US GAAP measures in the appendix of our earnings deck, which can be found, along with the rest of our earnings materials, at shareholder.ford.com. Actual results may differ from those stated and the most significant factors that could cause actual results to differ are included on Page 22 of our presentation. In addition, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons are year over year.

As a reminder, in 2020, we will update the business units in our automotive segment to align with changes to our management and reporting structure. To help you with this transition, our earnings deck appendix has a schematic of the changes, including where certain joint ventures will be reported. Also, our revised 2018 and 2019 results show how they will appear in the new reporting structure. The investor relations team is available if you have specific questions about these changes.

Now, I'll turn the call over to Jim.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Lynn and hello, everyone. Overall, the Ford team delivered solid operational results in the third quarter, while at the same time, we made further progress on the global redesign of the company. We know, though, that we have much more work to do. And this is the mandate at Ford, executing in the now, while transforming into a much more fit, agile and customer-centric company that can win in an era of rapid change and innovation. Our team is operating with urgency and a focus to meet these challenges.

Please turn to Page 4. Now touching briefly on the quarter, we generated positive adjusted free cash flow. The year-to-date adjusted free cash flow was up 80%, largely driven by improvement in our automotive business. In the quarter, we delivered $1.8 billion in company-adjusted EBIT. That was up 8%, supported by improvement in our businesses in China, North America and Europe, as well as mark-to-market gains in corporate other, and another strong performance by Ford Credit. And year-to-date EBIT for automotive, it was up 10%, and company-adjusted EBIT increased 6%.

Please turn to Page 5. At the highest level, our global redesign is about making choices to transform Ford into a more fit and competitive company. Simply put, we are absolutely committed to improving execution and addressing underperformance throughout the company. I will walk you through our business region by region. In our North American business, amid an intensified competitive environment, we are in the middle of an extensive product renewal. Reminding you that we are significantly refreshing and growing our SUV portfolio, introducing models like the completely redesigned Ford Explorer and Escape, and our all-new Lincoln Aviator and Corsair. I'm pleased to say that we are approaching now full production on the new Explorer and Aviator.

This product renewal comes as we also phase out our most traditional sedan silhouettes. Now again, our intent isn't to give up customers in that sedan segment; rather, to enhance their view of Ford's potential to please them in even a better vehicle. We also plan to protect and expand our leadership in pickups and commercial vehicles. Look for a new Super Duty pickup in the coming months, and our all-new F-150 next year.

In a few weeks we're introducing a battery electric vehicle that is designed from the ground up, to offer stunning performance, gorgeous design and an incredible customer experience that is fully connected and updatable over time. We also have big plans for the long-awaited rebirth of the Bronco franchise, so Ford is expanding in the battery electric vehicles and rugged off-road SUVs, challenging brands that have had those two growth areas to themselves for long enough. In total, I remind you that we're in the process of replacing 75% of our North American lineup by volume, by the end of 2020, dramatically improving the freshness and appeal of our portfolio.

The Ford team in Europe is making rapid strides in restructuring the business. We have reset our revenue and cost base and are rationalizing our product portfolio. Europe is now focusing on three business groups. A strong and growing commercial vehicle business, a smaller and more profitable passenger vehicle business, and a niche portfolio of profitable and brand-enhancing imported vehicles. So going forward, you will see us redeploy capital to build on our position as Europe's number one commercial vehicle brand. In addition, our country-specific product plans have us on track to deliver against the new European 2021 CO2 targets without penalties or fines, using new hybrid and electric propulsion choices.

We're clearly not satisfied with our standing China, and the team is working exhaustively to return to profitable growth in this important market. We're working to stabilize the business, and are now launching new products that are tailored to the needs of Chinese customers. At the same time, we are attacking costs, reinvigorating our dealer network, and improving sales and market capabilities.

In South America, we are restructuring our operations to be far more asset light. As you know, we made the decision to exit our heavy truck business. We reduced our management employee base by a full 20% and we downsized our regional headquarters and rationalized the dealer networks in both Brazil and Argentina.

Finally, we recently announced the formation of our International Markets Group. We will refer to this as IMG, which brings together 100 high-potential emerged and emerging markets, including India, Australia, ASEAN, the Middle East, Africa and Russia. This is all under one leadership team. Emerging markets are growing at almost double the rate of the global industry. By 2024, one in three vehicles in our industry will be sold in these markets. Having the right business model to profitably address this opportunity is critical, and that's precisely what IMG will do.

Now, please turn to Page 6. An important enabler of this strategy is the agreement we reached earlier this month with Mahindra. A joint venture will help Ford profitably grow in India and unlock the low-cost product development capabilities we need to grow in emerging markets. Ford will benefit from Mahindra's lower-cost platforms and value-focused engineering. Mahindra, on the other hand, will gain from Ford's global reach, quality and technology, and that includes the battery electric vehicle.

We're also taking strategic actions to prepare Ford to compete and lead in an industry that is being profoundly reshaped through connectivity, the sharing economy, automation and new forms of propulsion. You can think of this as smart vehicles for a smart world. We are scaling products and businesses that connect to the world around them in ways that benefits customers. With all elements of Ford Smart Mobility now in one organization led by Jim Farley, we are sharpening our focus on where to play and how to win across this broad mandate.

We're not able to reveal all the work we're doing in this exciting and fast-moving era, but there are few things that I can share. We are prioritizing investments in Connected Vehicle Services that will improve the customer experience. This will enable Ford to transition from what has been historically a largely product-led offering to an ever-improving and much stickier suite of products, accessories, services and experiences, all bundled together. These investments have a sharp focus on customer data privacy and safety. They will open new opportunities to realize value from connected vehicle data, and deliver outstanding experiences for our retail and commercial customers. We'll have more to say about all of this in the future.

As you know, we're also developing mobility services like Spin, which is among the top three micro mobility companies in the US. With a footprint in 60 markets and growing, and over 3 million rides year-to-date, Spin is expanding Ford's reach in areas that we believe will contribute to an even stronger base for our autonomous vehicle businesses.

Speaking of AVs, last month we announced Austin as our third market for autonomous vehicle services. Together with Argo AI, we are currently mapping the city and will gradually increase the size of our fleet, like how we're rolling out operations in the first two cities, Miami and Washington, DC. We are constantly learning from our expanding deployment of AV technology and services. This space has shifted and evolved significantly, even since the formation of our AV LLC in 2018, and we expect it to remain dynamic in the coming years. Our team is focused on building a successful, sustainable and scalable self-driving vehicle service. To this end, we remain focused on our plan for initial commercialization of a self-driving service in 2021. We will begin to scale that service once we're able to remove the safety driver from the vehicle.

Before I turn the call over to Tim, let me address our full-year outlook. We are experiencing more headwinds than expected in our fourth quarter, especially higher warranty. As a result, we have lowered our adjusted EBIT guidance range to $6.5 billion to $7 billion, which suggests we will not grow adjusted EBIT this year as we intended. Of course we're disappointed in this, but we're confident that we're laying the groundwork for sustained improvement in profitability and cash flow over time.

In terms of warranty costs, we are feeling the downstream impact of some products designed earlier in the decade, but we've taken extensive actions to improve long-term quality and durability, including centralizing core engineering responsibility and bolstering our systems integration and design assurance processes. Now these actions are already bearing fruit, as we are seeing an improving trend in quality studies on our models.

Now, let me turn the call over to our CFO, Tim Stone.

Timothy Stone -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Jim. Hi, everyone. Ford's results this quarter demonstrate we are making progress on delivering on our commitments to customers and other stakeholders. However, it's clear we have much more work to do. We're focused on consistently improving customer experience and operational execution across our business. We're making progress on our global redesign, making the tough choices to lay the groundwork for improvement and future growth, free cash flow, profitability and returns on capital.

We're positioning Ford to lead and win through fitness. For example, holding structural costs flat to down, excluding pension and OPEB, and forming the JV with Mahindra. We're prioritizing meaningful opportunities for profitable, long-term growth in mobility, and disciplined execution is driving strong results from Ford Credit. In the third quarter, we generated $207 million adjusted free cash flow. Year-to-date, adjusted free cash flow was up 80% to $2.3 billion, supported by lower capital expenditures, higher distributions from Ford Credit, and continued improvement in working capital in our auto business. Adjusted free cash flow is our most important financial measure, and we're committed to generating sustainable growth over time.

Cash and liquidity of $22 billion and $35 billion remain above our targets. We remain committed to investment grade credit ratings and a strong balance sheet. Wholesales declined 8% in the quarter, primarily driven by Europe, China and South America. Revenue was down 2%, largely as a result of foreign exchange. Auto EBIT was $1.3 billion in the quarter, with a margin of 3.9%, as higher pricing and flat structural costs, excluding pension and OPEB, were offset by higher materials costs associated with product launches, higher warranty expenses, and adverse currency exchange. Our strategic investments in mobility increased 48%, as we continue to build out capabilities in connected services and autonomous vehicles. At the end of this year, 100% of Ford's new vehicles in the US will be shipped with connectivity, and we are targeting 90% globally by the end of 2020.

Ford Credit delivered another strong quarter, boasting a 9% increase in earnings before taxes. Loss metrics reflected healthy and stable consumer credit, and auction values for off-lease vehicles were slightly better than expected. We now believe auction values will be down about 2%, on average, for the full year, and receivables were $149 billion.

Corporate other of $18 million included mark-to-market and other investment gains of $113 million, including $77 million from Pivotal Software. On an adjusted basis, company EBIT increased 8% to $1.8 billion, and our EBIT margin expanded to 40 basis points to 4.8%, driven by improvement in our businesses in China, North America, and Europe; mark-to-market gains in corporate other; and, another strong performance by Ford Credit.

EPS was $0.34 and our tax rate in the quarter was 10.7%. In the third quarter, we recorded $1.5 billion in special item charges, with a cash effect of about $300 million. Actions related to our global redesign accounted for $1 billion in EBIT, and a majority of the negative cash effects. As expected, most of the third quarter global redesign charges refer to an impairment in India related to the planned formation of our joint venture with Mahindra.

Special charges in the quarter also included $300 million in non-cash pension remeasurement losses, and $187 million for an unfavorable customs ruling. For the full year, we now expect to incur $3 billion to $3.5 billion of EBIT charges as a result of global redesign, with negative cash effects of about $1 billion to $1.5 billion.

Let me touch on a few areas of the business in more detail. In North America, wholesale units were down modestly. Launch-related ramp-up of all new Explorer and Escape, the overlap of very strong production of F-Series in the third quarter of last year to compensate for the decline in production volume caused by the Meridian fire, and our decision to exit low margin sedans were largely offset by the favorable impacts of our new Edge introduced at the end of 2018, and also Ranger. As a reminder, we plan to start production of the new Super Duty in the fourth quarter.

Revenue grew 5%, supported by higher pricing and improved mix. EBIT increased 3%, with a margin of 8.6%, driven by higher pricing and volumes in the US, which were partially offset by launch-related production costs and higher warranty expenses. As a reminder, we expect to conclude our negotiations with the UAW in the fourth quarter, and to recognize the full impact of ratification-related payments as part of our adjusted results.

In Europe, wholesales declined 15%, primarily because of our redesign actions to exit low-margin businesses, including discontinuation of the C-MAX sedan. Revenue, which was down 14%, or 9% excluding the impact of currency, was also affected by the lower volumes. At the same time, the benefits of Europe's redesign were evident in EBIT, which improved 27% in the quarter. This is the first time in three years that Ford has posted consecutive quarters of year-over-year improvement in European profitability. This performance is attributable to lower structural costs, stronger product mix, and higher profits from our commercial vehicle JV, Ford Otosan. Headwinds included the lower volumes and adverse currency exchange rates.

In China, wholesales declined 12% and consolidated revenue was down 27%, as improvements in mix and pricing were more than offset by lower volumes and component sales to the joint ventures in the country. Our EBIT loss in China narrowed to $300 million, an improvement of $100 million year over year, driven by lower structural cost and favorable market factors in consolidated operations. This is the third consecutive quarter of year-over-year improvement in profitability in China. As Jim mentioned, we are working to stabilize our China business and working intensively to return it to profitable growth. Dealer engagement and profitability are starting to improve, and we continue to keep production aligned to demand, to ensure appropriate levels of dealer stocks.

Please turn to Page 20. While our third quarter results demonstrate positive improvements in the trajectory of some areas of our business, we clearly have a lot more work to do. We are updating our outlook to reflect several headwinds that have intensified since we last gave guidance. The first is higher warranty, particularly related to coverages. The second is higher incentives planned in North America. The third is China, due to lower volumes and JV profits. Taking these factors into consideration, we are now targeting a full-year adjusted EBIT in the range of $6.5 billion to $7 billion, compared with $7 billion last year. This implies a fourth quarter adjusted EBIT range of $0.6 billion to $1.1 billion.

We continue to expect strong market factors, lower full-year auto structural costs, excluding pensions and OPEB, and strength in Ford Credit. We still expect adjusted free cash flow to be up for the full year, driven by our auto business, and we remain committed to driving growth in cash flow and profitability over time.

We now expect a full-year adjusted effective tax rate of around 12% to 13%, which is lower than our previous expectation, largely driven by more clarity on provisions in the US Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017. This would yield adjusted EPS in the range of $1.20 to $1.32, compared with $1.30 last year. Relative to calls on capital for the year, we expect capex to be about $7.5 billion, down year over year, reflecting benefits from our fitness initiatives; funded pension contributions to be about $750 million; and shareholder distributions to be about $2.6 billion. Our guidance assumes no material change in the current economic environment including commodities, foreign exchange and tariffs. Our actual results could differ materially from our guidance due to risks, uncertainties and other factors, including those detailed in our filings with the SEC.

Before we move to Q&A, there are couple of things I encourage you to keep in mind as you think about Ford, today and for the long term. First, our customers are informing and driving everything we do. That's why 2019 and 2020 are such robust launch years for us in North America. We are bolstering our winning portfolio of vehicles based on what consumers want and need, reallocating capital to those higher return growth opportunities, and carrying out changeovers of our highest volume and most profitable vehicles.

Second, we're determined to always get better. To persistently focus on our fitness, and continuously improve our operating productivity. While we see increased headwinds in our fourth quarter, we have a bias for action and are intensely executing on the inputs that will enable us to capture the opportunities across our business that will allow us to drive free cash flow, along with long-term growth in revenue and profitability, including adjusted EBIT margins of 8% or better. And, we remain committed to maintaining a strong balance sheet and holding investment grade credit ratings.

Now, let's open the call for questions. Operator?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of John Murphy, Bank of America.

John Murphy -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Good afternoon, guys and thanks for the call. Just a first question on, to the rest of the year, already it's the fourth quarter. Even when you back out the UAW bonuses, it looks like you're doing $1 billion, $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter, so it seems like it's a little bit on the light side, and you very specifically highlighted higher-than-planned incentives in North America. I'm just curious, are you see something on the competitive front, where pricing is getting much more difficult? It just kind of seems a little bit odd, after you just posted $700 million positive net price in the third quarter. It just doesn't seem to match up with what you just did, so something changed dramatically in the competitive environment?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, John. Jim Hackett. Let me ask Joe to bring you up to date on that.

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

Hi, John. Thanks for the question. So if you look at it, the simple answer to your question is, I wouldn't say there's anything dramatically changed in the environment at an industry level. Let me explain to you what's going on. For example, in the third quarter, Ford's incentive increase year over year was slightly lower than what the industry average was for the US market in the third quarter.

What's happening in the second half of the year, our incentives overall are slightly higher than we'd expected versus our plan for the year. That's largely driven by a couple of products. If you look at the Ranger launch this year, it's gone very well, we've been gaining share every month this year, and we had 18% segment share in September. But as you could expect, the competitors haven't let us just grow that share without any fight, so we've seen a little bit higher incentives on Ranger than we'd expected, given the launch of the vehicle this year. Still very optimistic about the product. It won APEAL, it won IQS for J.D. Power, but incentive spend on that product has been a little higher than we were expecting in the second half of the year. If you look at what happened in the summer months, our competition on F-Series was very aggressive, and so in September, we took some actions. We saw our segment share in F-150 come back up in September, and so we had to take some actions there. And Edge is in a very competitive segment, a little more competitive this year than we had planned for the year. That's kind of where you look at it, but in general, that's more us versus our plan for the second half of the year, but I was referring to the US industry in the third quarter as a reference point. Incentives are still pretty much under control and the industry is behaving in a pretty rational way so far.

John Murphy -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay, and then just a second question, and this might be a little bit more for Joe, but Jim, I'd obviously love to hear your view on this. There was a lot of concern around the Explorer launch, and it sounds like there was a lot of problems there, but it seems like you've got your arms around it and are ramping up pretty well. Just curious, was that story overplayed in the press, and we all got a little bit too concerned about that? Are there any lessons that you've learned for product launches? Because obviously, you have a ton coming down the pipe in the next 12 months from that process that you can apply going forward, to kind of make sure we don't have this kind of kerfluffle or issues going forward.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think I should -- John, it's Jim Hackett. I think I should confirm, that we have higher expectations for our performance, and its my experience, the short time that I've been here, that Ford is really good at this. Joe can add some color here, but the challenge, what I call the design problem, is that we had to ramp down a really profitable vehicle. We had to clear out the plant, literally bulldoze everything out, build a new plant inside, get it started and not drop any volume in the midst of that. So, it was pretty aggressive and as I look at that, I want a win like that in the future, but we fell short in a few ways. In fact, Joe just took my whole team through a deep dive on what we've learned from that. I was very impressed with the granularity of what we do understand, of how the things that should have gone better didn't.

But what I am not concerned about is whether we get it and whether we have a grasp of how to get control of it. I'll let Joe share with you, because of course we are getting daily updates, the latest status of where we are on Explorer.

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

Yeah, thanks, Jim. Thanks, John. So a really important launch for us, clearly. Just to step back for a second, so far this year we launched the Ranger all new in North America, a very successful launch. Very unusual that it wins its segment in IQS in the first year of introduction. We just launched Escape and Corsair down at Louisville, that launch has gone very well. We're ahead of plan, actually, on that launch. So the Explorer Aviator launch is a very unique situation. As Jim said, we're disappointed in our overall performance in the ramp up of the volume. The products themselves are wonderful, the Aviator is a fabulous product. About half the sales of Explorer so far are FT and Platinum, and if you haven't driven an FT, I really challenge you to do so. It's a lot of fun and

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

They won't give it back.

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

Yeah, you're right. But back to the launch, so Chicago is our oldest plant. It was launched in 1924. It's very, very constrained as far as physical location, and as far as land and the area around the plant. Simply put, we took on too much. We signed up for too much at launch. We tried to launch on three crew, which we didn't even try to do when we launched the Limited F-150 back in 2014. We launched the Aviator and Explorer both at the same time. We had the hybrid version of the Explorer, we had the Police Interceptor, we had Black Label Aviator, we had all this content and simply put, with the new, with the product going from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive architecture, all new assembly lines, all-new body shop, all those things at once, we took on too much and we shouldn't have.

And so, part of the lessons learned is obviously go back to how we manage these launches and sequence to them in a way that gives the team a chance to be successful. Our wholesales were down in the third quarter about 19,000 Explorers year over year, and we also had an additional 6,000 Aviators that weren't in the previous year. And so we feel really good about the fourth quarter. The last week or so, we've been running about 59 JPH, we're actually running out a parts from our suppliers as we started to ramp up. We used to run at 60 JPH, so we're just about at where we have been historically in that plant, plus we have the show center, the new additional line coming online starting at about 6 JPH by the end of the month.

So, we actually feel really good about where we are right now, it's been a lot of work and a lot to get here. The products look great. We have plenty of available inventory now in the dealers, and we're excited about where they're going to go from here.

For the rest of the launches, John, the Super Duty launch looks good this year, The Transit launch looks good this year, Puma in Europe looks good. We have a lot of work to do for next year's launches, but I feel good about where we are for the rest of the year.

John Murphy -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay, and then one quick last one on Ford Motor Credit. Given the rate environment is shifting around on us in a direction nobody expected 12 months ago, you had the credit downgrade at Moody's. I'm just curious, as you're managing Ford Motor Credit, has anything changed in the way you're thinking about the business? Where are we on the shift of getting better return on assets on sort of a constrained, a purposely constrained, asset base? Could we see returns improve, or profitability improve, as soon as next year, based on some of those actions?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

John, Jim Hackett. I'm going to hand it to David McClellan. As a former bank board member managing through the crisis in this last decade, I'm really proud of the Ford Credit discipline. In fact, our efficiencies improved. We aren't using more leverage to improve returns, so we're very careful about that. But David, you can talk about the great news we keep getting from Ford Credit.

David McClelland -- Chief Executive Officer, Ford Credit

Yes. John, hi, this is David. I'm echoing what Jim is saying. I'm very comfortable with the way the Credit company is going, the portfolio looks very strong. I mentioned this in the last earnings call, and I haven't seen any change in that. We manage, as you know, we manage our business, we've stated that we want to keep it around $150 billion. We manage the leverage between 8 to 9 to 1, as Jim just mentioned. You guys know how much equity is employed in the business, and you know that we expect to get, and we've made this quite public, between 8% and 12% return on that equity. So, when you do the math, our expected earnings should be about $2 billion. And this year, we've had, and you referenced it in your question, we've had good news interest rates versus what we'd expected, so we have seen that in our DMV numbers.

The used vehicle performance has been better than we expected. We've said now that we think the used vehicles will be down about 2% for the year. We're about 1.8% so far for the year. I know that that's slightly different to what [Indecipherable] has said, but then I look specifically at the trend last year on used vehicles and I look at what happened in the fourth quarter last year. And then most importantly, I look at the return mix, and the demand [Phonetic] is actually off the 2001 segmentations, so when you look specifically at the Ford Credit return mix, I feel comfortable that 2% is about right. So overall -- sorry, go ahead.

John Murphy -- Bank of America -- Analyst

But has there been any shift in the portfolio so far, maybe away from dealer floor plan financing to maybe a higher margin retail business? I'm just trying to understand where we are in that shift.

David McClelland -- Chief Executive Officer, Ford Credit

No, the floor plan in the US, the amount of floor plan we do in the US is pretty constant, and we expect it to stay there. We do most of the floor plan in Europe, and we haven't seen a change in China. Our FICO is pretty constant and our sort of marginal business, as you've seen over the last 10 quarters, remain constant at 6%, so we're not seeing any change.

John Murphy -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Okay, great, thank you very much.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, John.

Operator

And our next question is going to come from the line of Rod Lache Wolfe Research.

Rod Lache -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Hi, everybody.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Rod.

Rod Lache -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Thanks for taking my question. I had a couple. Just on Q4, to follow on John's question, North America, that's been quite a bit lower than expected in the quarter. I was wondering, is there an unusual warranty catch-up impact in there? How should we be thinking about warranty, which is up a lot over the past two years? Anything in there that shouldn't recur next year?

And then also on pricing, I'm still puzzled by what changed relative to incentives. Just thinking about the market, one of the biggest changes that's happened since your last call is that GM has had a strike, and their in-transit pipeline is basically emptied out. So, if anything, with your biggest competitor declining to maybe 50 days of inventory, I would think that the pricing environment gets better from here. It sounds like you disagree. I was hoping you can elaborate.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Rod. This is like the Chicago thing, I just want to make it clear that the management team, starting with me, understand that warranty is an opportunity for us to fix things that underlie challenges in our processes or the way we've done things. It's my early work that I got involved in, Rod. In fact, when we met in New York in our first gathering, I talked to you about this. That we attack the product development process with a lot of vigor, and you understand the gestation period in the auto industry. So a lot of the improvement that we have made, Jim Farley, Joe Hinrichs, myself, Hau Thai-Tang, in getting the portfolio to generate all the new products that we're talking about coming, with less capital committed that was planned when this new regime started, $20 billion less.

I'm confident that the work, that the PD processes undertaken is going to generate better performance. However, with that said, Joe and I are committed to control of our business and we've been surprised ourselves by some of these things, because these are -- Joe explained, products and service, some that are longer, three and four years out that, of course, we have to deal for our customers with problems, and we'll do that.

There is also with the DPS6 transmission, we made a decision as a team to remove any kind of question from ongoing ownership of the vehicles beyond really first ownership, that the company would stand behind the performance of the products. This is a big Ford commitment, to make sure that no one was suffering through that product challenge. I feel really good from what the company can control that we've got a handle on that.

Let me just summarize by saying, warranty is getting a lot of attention, and the first thing is that the PD process, it has been restructured in the smart redesign. Hal's work there was kind of leading the company. But the benefits of all that are in the next generation of products. So Joe, maybe you can comment on these historical products, what we've learned.

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

Yeah, Rod, thanks. If you look at it, the bulk of the warranty cost increases are in North America. The 2018 model year and before that are the model years where we are seeing an increase in the higher time in service warranty claims than we had accrued for and had been planning for. That's largely driven by some powertrain actions. Some of those suppliers, some of them our own. As Jim suggested, we've done a lot of rework on our product development process to make sure we've learned from this. But, we have to get this bubble working through our system that we're seeing is here. We're seeing really good progress in our 2019 model year vehicles, same point in time, including six months, nine months in service, those kind of things, so we feel really good about the progress we're making, but we have this 2018 model year and a few years before that working its way through the system. The way our process works, of course, we accrue for forward models based on the experience we've been having, and so it takes a little while for that to work its way through the system, but that's what you're seeing. It is largely in North America, from that perspective, and that's why you see it.

On US incentives, I just want to go back to what I was saying before. First of all, we haven't seen a markedly different approach by any of our competitors in the marketplace recently. We'll watch that very carefully, of course. Our completed transaction prices are $3,000 higher than the all-new Ram and Silverado, even though our truck is a couple of years older. But we are watching, as I said, you know, there are a couple of segments where we saw some changes in the dynamics that we didn't plan for in the second half, Ranger and Edge were two of them that I was referring to. But I also said that we saw in the third quarter, and we've also seen in October so far, the market has been pretty disciplined, to your point, and we're watching that very carefully.

But a little bit of the -- the bulk of the guidance change is really warranty related. I just want to be clear. Some of these other issues are also important, but the warranty that we're seeing that we have to address from the 2018 model year and before is really the majority of what's changed in North America.

Rod Lache -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Could you just clarify what the charge is for pre-existing warranty that you're rolling through the numbers this year? And then just my last question is, what signs should we be taking away, looking at the international numbers, and kind of thinking forward. Obviously, there are savings here in Europe, China and South America, but the volumes are down as well in those markets. As you sort of look at what's happening here, any color on how we should be thinking about the trajectory of improvement from here as we think about next year, the positives on costs, maybe higher compliance, cost issues, that kind of thing?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, so Rod, on the go-forward warranty, what Tim and Joe have done in the expectations for the year, they've given you that in terms of the way the year has been projected. We don't go out beyond that. Of course, we have our normal reserve for warranty, but Tim, I'm going to let you add any color that might help him with that.

Timothy Stone -- Chief Financial Officer

Well, it's exactly as you said. From a warranty cost perspective, just to be clear, we do expect warranty to be up year over year. Again, that's a key driver of our change in guidance for the fourth quarter. The accruals we go through every quarter, of course, and accruals are appropriate and reflect the experiences we've seen with warranties to date through that point in time.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Joe, you might talk about the color in Asia.

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

Yeah, on the international markets, Rod, we've seen progress obviously this year in Europe and in China. I think the European team is really making a lot of progress on the redesign work that's been in place now for quite some time. We feel good about the progress we're making. South America is feeling some pressure from what's going on in Argentina, but the South America business continues to make improvements as well in their restructuring, so both Europe and South America are really well on plan, where we want them to be on the redesign efforts.

On China, our sales have not come up as fast as we were expecting them to in the second half of this year. Part of that is industry, but part of that is our own performance. We're really seeing the dealer network starting to really grow their sales force, their profitability is returning, and our inventory is in really good shape, so we're watching that very carefully. I think the one to watch is with the China industry and how well do we do with our new models that we launched in the third quarter, like the Focus Active, The Edge SD and ST line, the Taurus, the Territory EV, and a number of other products coming. We need to show growth in our China volumes.

So, the volumes are down, as you suggested. Part of that's intentional with some of the product changes we made, choices we made in Europe to get out of some of that volume. With the downsizing we're doing in Europe, we got out of Focus and Fiesta -- I'm sorry. In South America, we got out of Focus and Fiesta production, that's by design. But I think hopefully you'll see from here forward we can grow the business in China with the products we have, and you will see continued improvements in the European business.

Rod Lache -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Rod.

Operator

And our next question is going to come from the line of Joseph Spak, RBC Capital Markets.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Joe.

Joseph Spak -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, good afternoon. I guess I want to turn back to North America and back into the Explorer a little bit. You mentioned wholesales in North America were down slightly, in the US they were up slightly. I think that's pretty close to what you did from a production standpoint. I guess the real question is, were all those Explorers that we read about the challenges, about wholesaled this quarter? Are there vehicles at Flat Rock, as has been reported? And even if they are at Flat Rock, are they wholesaled? I guess if they were wholesaled, or sent to dealers, if you're just still doing rework on them, is that also some of the costs that might be considered in the fourth quarter?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Joe, Joe Hinrichs can clear this up. I am not happy with the press' view of the way we've worked through this. I mean, I'm just going to tickle your fancy a little bit by having you understand how diverse supply chains are in the auto industry. I mean, products come from all kinds of trajectories in terms of what makes them up. There are no companies that are vertically integrated anymore, so the way the reporter talked about how things are moved around and shifted, as indication that the process was broken, that's just not fair.

We were doing things because we were trying to take some of the pressure off, this job per hour, or JPH, that Joe talked about, we could reduce some of the complexity. That actually worked, so that was lay down was painted as a negative. It was actually misrepresented. What he was saying to you is that the wholesales were still down 19,000 units, but that was worse last quarter.

So we've made a lot of progress, but Joe, I don't know if you want to add more to that.

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

Sure. So, Joe, let me just be clear. We shipped about, through the end of the third quarter is the data I'm referring to. We shipped about 96,000 units. We had about 9,500 in inventory, most of those were in Chicago. There's a couple of thousand still in Flat Rock. Just a reminder, there is no physical space around the Chicago assembly plants, so when we have any issue, there is no place to put the vehicles. I mean, if you've ever been to South Side Chicago, you know there is no physical space.

But some of the reports have been overly dramatized. We've used the Flat Rock for many launches, we did this in the past because Flat Rock right now is working on one shift. It has plenty of capacity, it has a lot of skilled people. It has a rail yard nearby, and when you're doing software updates or even if you're doing some physical repairs to the vehicle, or doing some inspections, having skilled people and having floor space and space in the yard to be able to do that is much more important to be able to do that with a good quality, than trying to force it, moving vehicles around because you have no physical space.

We think we'll have all the inventory cleared out by the end of November, and we feel really good about that. We have plenty of inventory out in the field now for both Explorers and Aviators in the dealerships. A lot of that came on pretty quickly, admittedly, in September and October. We've been shipping what we're -- actually in the last week, we shipped a little more than we actually built, because we're actually starting to clear out some of those units. We're shipping what we're building right now, and we feel really good about the flow of that going forward.

But, you know, we just don't talk about it, but we've leveraged Flat Rock a number of times over the last five or six years on launches. But unfortunately, the lost production that we had and the slower ramp up than we expected in Chicago led to people wanting to report on other things as well. Our first and foremost approach, of course, is to protect the customers and keep them well protected.

I want to be clear about one of your questions. We don't recognize the vehicles as wholesaled in our revenue stream until they are released with good quality and saleable to the dealer and to the customer. All those vehicles that I'm telling you that are still on hold, they are not wholesaled. We don't wholesale until they're gate released with the quality to be able to be sold.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

In fact, that discipline is really important, because if we lose one customer, can you imagine the future cash flow loss of losing a customer? So it's better that we get this right.

The other thing, Joe, is if you follow the transit business or the F-150 business, those have multiple factories, so when we're in the middle of launches with those vehicles, there is relief because of the way Joe Hinrichs can move things around. So I'm just echoing what he said to you, is Flat Rock was not evidence of chaos. It was evidence of us making sure things were right.

Joseph Spak -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. The automotive free cash flow is still higher year over year. I noticed in the quarter the Ford Credit distribution was up, and I think year-to-date now it's at $2.4 billion, which I think is only slightly below what you sort of kind of previously indicated for the year. Within that guidance, are you raising the Ford Credit distribution for this year? Because maybe the performance of Ford Credit is stronger? And then while we're on cash flow, just maybe if you could provide an update on some of the cash with the redesigned cash flow, because again, that looks sort of light, the $1.5 billion to $2 billion you've indicated prior to this year, unless there's a big fourth quarter.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, Tim, you can field this.

Timothy Stone -- Chief Financial Officer

You bet. This is Tim. As it relates to Ford Credit, the cash distributions tend to track with profitability for Ford Credit, and that's been consistent over time. That will just be a natural flow. We haven't given specific Ford Credit cash flow guidance, but it certainly factored into our expectation that we'll have growth in free cash flow, and it's been part of the 80% growth we've seen year-to-date so far this year.

On the special items, the cash thus far in 2019 has been $0.7 billion, and we had said in Q2 that we expected $1.5 billion to $2 billion of cash. We've had a deferral in that. Similarly, earlier in the year we expected $2 billion to $2.5 billion cash. We continue to refine our estimates of the cash ramifications from the restructuring actions that we're taking, and I now expect $1 billion to $1.5 billion in 2019. Again, $0.7 billion of which has already occurred.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And that's --

Joseph Spak -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Just to be clear on the Ford Credit distribution, I guess versus what you thought after the second quarter, embedded in the automotive free cash, is the distribution higher than prior?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we haven't given any specific commentary on when and how the flows curve. Again, they track with profitability over time.

Joseph Spak -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay.

Operator

All right. Our next question is going to come from the line of Brian Johnson, Barclays.

Brian Johnson -- Barclays -- Analyst

Yes, good afternoon. So, a couple of questions. First, vis-a-vis Ford Credit, since a lot of the other questions have been asked, you know, I was a little bit surprised by the cut in, or the improvement in expected decline in auction values. Given some softness we saw in Mannheim overall in the quarter, is there something specific to the kind of lease returns that you've been getting? Or, something that makes it a little bit better? And then as you kind of roll forward into next year, what's your expectation on that?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Brian, I'll turn that to David, but I have to smile, because I'm really proud of the brand, so I do think the brand carries when you're talking about F-150 pickup trucks and things like that. But David, am I right about that?

David McClelland -- Chief Executive Officer, Ford Credit

Thanks for the question. I think I touched on it a little earlier. So, we look at the performance year-to-date, which is down just short of 2%, and then I looked at the performance last year, throughout the year and the trends actually over the last few years, and then what happened last year in the fourth quarter. And then, specifically and importantly, look at the return mix, which is what Jim was getting at. If you look at the return mix, remember Mannheim is off a really historical mix. So if you look at our specific return mix, I feel comfortable that the 2% number is about right.

Brian Johnson -- Barclays -- Analyst

Okay, good. The second question, as long as we're going into Ford Credit, there has been a lot of negativity in the press around extended loan terms, subprime, underwater trade-ins being rolled into the loan, which would imply poor loan to values. Can you comment A, just on the general industry trend there? And B, the Ford Credit specific approach to that?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well again, Jim Hackett. I'm going to warrant to you, the way we run this company is what I'd like to talk about, and there is a lot of integrity in the way we think about this balance sheet and the way we handle customers. I don't really want to comment on the others. There are practices that you would see that we would not accept at Ford Credit. David?

David McClelland -- Chief Executive Officer, Ford Credit

Sure. Yeah, thanks. Again, echoing what Jim said, not to talk about outside of Ford Credit, but I can talk with some confidence about the credit company itself. The business that we're putting on the books remains very strong. Our FICO For the quarter is 750, and we're not moving at all on any of the higher risk business that we're doing. And then, really to the heart of your question, we are not in the longer terms. We're not, even if the average transaction price is going up, we're not seeing any movement on our longer-term business, which the mix of that, the 84 month is only 3%. There's nothing that I'm seeing in the performance in terms of delinquency, even the early, early defaults, non-delinquent defaults, are not moving, 30, 60, 90s are fine. in our slides, there is a seasonality on the LTR, but that is simply seasonality. Just look at 2Q18 versus 2Q19. Your prior questions about the disposal in terms of the residual values are pretty good. So, I mean we're staying diligent, but I'm comfortable and confident that what you're reading about is not what you're seeing in the credit company.

Brian Johnson -- Barclays -- Analyst

Okay, thank you.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Brian.

Operator

Our next question will come from the line of Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Adam.

Adam Jonas -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thanks, everybody. Hey, Jim, how are you?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good.

Adam Jonas -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Good. Just two quick questions, and apologies for the background noise. I just wanted to zone in on the consolidated China business, which my understanding is imported products, it is, I know, very Lincoln heavy from the US into China, calculating an operating margin loss of around negative 25%, negative 30%, that territory. Can you just again justify or explain why would you do that? It doesn't strike me as a business worth doing. Do you have a choice to just stop doing that? Just to stop selling US-made cars into China? Which, for a variety of reasons, as a global automaker, you think you've got to make where you sell. Is that something you can stop doing, or is there a story of, you're trying to keep the blood in the patient, the dealer lifeline kind of going, and that can kind of-you can cycle out of that, and stop doing that stuff?

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Well, I think your analysis, as always, is really good and I mean, imagine together the way we ask Joe Hinrichs to plan with the tariff structure that is in, it's up, it's out, it's down. And so I do think that I've been public and said a year ago when asked about this, I thought there would be a resolution in the way that we'd have certainty and what I would say an equilibrium, if you remember, that we could plan our business. Lincoln was responding really well to exports from here.

That is an example where there is blood in the patient, so to speak. The brand was growing as fast as anything in the country, and we've made commitments. People had made commitments to us. I thought where you were going was also about the larger question of participation in China, which is something I'm still committed to. I think there is a formula there, a business model that Ford can excel at.

But Joe, I don't know if there's any more. You remember, Joe Hinrichs, who is now President of Automotive, also got us started in China, so he has had some, he was on the ground there and had experience. But the question Adam is asking, you know, of is there false -- are we doing false things here that aren't sustainable?

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

Yeah. It's a very fair question, Adam. I recognize our consolidated operations in China are complicated, because we have the Lincoln imported products, we have some of the Ford imported products. We also have the cost structure of Ford-owned entities and employees in China, and then we have our allocations from the corporation and from engineering, etc., are in the consolidated numbers, so it's a compilation of a lot of things. Suffice to say, we don't believe in exporting vehicles at a contribution margin loss, as long as we don't have a spike in import duties that are a near-term issue.

The solution to this largely is around localization plans for our business in China. We've been very public about, we have five more vehicle being planned to be locally assembled in the near term. That includes the Lincoln Corsair and the Ford Explorer. A number of products are going to be localized over the next year, year-and-a-half, which will really influence this. It will help us be more competitive cost-wise in the business in China, but also will take away some of the exposure we've had, just some of the fluctuations in tariffs. We feel good about that plan. As you know and you noted, the Lincoln plan has been an import plan until now, when we start localizing Lincoln Corsair and then more to come from there, which will really help with this. They're contribution margin positive. There's a lot of costs in the consolidated business, but this will largely get taken care of by the localization plans we have going forward. Thanks.

Adam Jonas -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thanks, Joe and Jim. If I can just sneak in one more on hybrids. There seems to be this referendum going on in global autos where some companies are kind of canceling their hybrid programs and saying very openly that they view them as regulatory cars and compliance vehicles that consumers don't really fully value, even if on paper they make sense, and they are really complicated vehicles, and there's not a lot of capital to throw around, and others are moving straight to EVs. And then some, I'd say like you and Toyota are in a camp of, hybrids are the real deal. They're going to be with us for a long, long time and consumers value them. Maybe Joe, for you, if I were to ask you kind of 5, 10 years out, you're in a long-term business where product you're planning now, some of it won't even be on sale for north of five years, and it has to be on the road for 10 or 20 years. If I put that longer-term hat on, are you equally bullish on hybrids as you are on EVs? If I force you to pick one, really that 10-plus years, where is the incremental Ford dollar going to invest?

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

Yeah, Adam. Thanks. There is a lot there. When Jim Farley announced, I think it was now a little more than a year-and-a-half ago about $11 billion commitment to electrification, we were all in on all parts of this discussion. Yes, we see significant growth in our hybrid business over the next five years. And part of that is, we think that where consumers are today and where costs are today, that makes a lot of sense for the economic choice of the consumer. As you know, we're taking a portfolio approach to this. It isn't just about hybrids or plug-in hybrids, it also about electric vehicles starting with a very exciting vehicle next year, and the other ones are coming after that. I think you are talking about a transition period. We think that hybrids will continue to be part of the equation for a number of years to come, but our BEV portfolio will grow substantially over the course of time, and we think that ultimately is where this largely goes, but we do see a role for hybrids in the portfolio.

Remember, we get questions all the time about, with the movement of sedans largely out of the North American portfolio, what happens if gas prices spike? Well, again, our portfolio approach, which we've been consistent all along, our new SUVs all have some kind of electrification as part of each nameplate we're launching, so that we can offer solutions to customers, if we should see a spike in fuel prices, or other things. So there's a number of reasons why it's important to us, but we are bullish on battery electric vehicles. We think it will be toward the end of the decade that will be a significant portion of the portfolio of electrification.

But we do still see hybrids as being an important part of the portfolio, especially in the near term, where there is no compromise, no range anxiety for consumers.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

In fact, Adam, I loved when we had this exchange a year or so ago, I was doing the thing where I would bring up the computer industry as a proxy, and we were saying, can you convert that to thinking about automotive? You remember when computing was moving from chip size, Pentium, etc., and you would buy the next-generation computer based on that. And of course, that's been blown up in terms of the way the markets now respond to computing; you know, what Apple has done in terms of the iPhone, we see the features and virtues, rather than what's inside of it.

I think this is going to happen now in automotive. I give Jim Farley and Joe a lot of credit here, as Ford was leading in this way. In other words, all the rhetoric was around, do you have electric vehicles? Or, do you have hybrid vehicles? We've got this exciting thing coming in November that is going to take advantage --

Adam Jonas -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

I can't wait.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I know, and what I want you to imagine with me is the dialog is going to start to shift, because the nature of the product is going to be what's talked about rather than the propulsion. Of course, we're committed to that. We've got this F-Series coming and of course you know we've been working on a battery electric inside of that. Imagine when the Bronco comes, how exciting talking about Ford products is. I just want to say that I love where you're going with the question, and I'm really excited about the way Ford is interpreting that.

Just a reminder, as battery costs improve or lower, hybrids also become more affordable. It's not just about electric vehicles. So that becomes also part of the equation for the customer.

Adam Jonas -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

As long as the internal combustion part of the hybrid does not increase, does not offset that. But I get your point, and I do appreciate both of you answering the question. Thank you.

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, thank you. Let me just close and say the third quarter results do have evidence of the global redesign of Ford. When you heard the news about how Europe persistently now is improving, and it is driving these positive shifts. But make no mistake, humility of the work that we still have to do, I'm still very confident in the team here and the progress that Ford Motor Company is making. We're focused on improving our fitness and our outcomes. This is driving a winning portfolio, where we're fortifying the strengths. As you heard me just mention a moment ago to Adam, improving mix. And we're focused on laying groundwork to improve the trajectory of long-term growth in cash flow and profitability. That evidence is really starting to show up in the previous calls. You all asked us, are you sure your structural costs aren't rising? You know, we really have attacked this and I think we have a good handle there. And then a commitment by me personally that things that you would expect us to do better, that we are addressing, and we are.

Thank you very much for your attention this evening.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 64 minutes

Call participants:

Lynn Antipas Tyson -- Executive Director of Investor Relations

James P. Hackett -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Timothy Stone -- Chief Financial Officer

Joseph R. Hinrichs -- President, Automotive

David McClelland -- Chief Executive Officer, Ford Credit

John Murphy -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Rod Lache -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Joseph Spak -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Brian Johnson -- Barclays -- Analyst

Adam Jonas -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

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