Ford Motor (NYSE:F) will report its first-quarter earnings after the market closes on Tuesday, April 28.
Normally, we'd take this time to look at what Wall Street expects, review Ford's sales results, and make an educated guess as to how well the company did. But there's not much mystery here, because Ford has already warned us that the coronavirus outbreak made it an ugly one.
Ford has already told us: It'll be rough
Ford released some preliminary first-quarter results on April 13, and added an update on April 17. They're ballpark numbers, but it's enough that we have a pretty good idea of how things went versus the first quarter of 2019.
It was... well, take a look for yourself.
|Metric||Q1 2020 (E)||Q1 2019|
|Revenue||About $34 billion||$40.3 billion|
|Vehicles sold, wholesale||About 1,125,000||1,425,000|
|Adjusted EBIT (loss)||(About $600 million)||$2.4 billion|
|Adjusted EBIT margin (negative)||(About 1.8%)||6.1%|
|One-time charges||About $300 million||$592 million|
|Net income (loss)||(About $2 billion)||$1.1 billion|
What Wall Street had predicted
We should note for the record that Ford's preliminary results fell short of Wall Street's consensus estimates as reported by FactSet: Wall Street was expecting Ford to report income of $278.3 million on revenue of $35.4 billion.
Does it matter? Not really.
The more important number: Ford's cash
Here's the number that matters most to auto investors right now: Ford said that it had about $30 billion in cash as of April 8, including the $15.4 billion that it drew down from its credit lines in March.
On April 13, CFO Tim Stone said that $30 billion was enough cash for Ford to hold out at least through the third quarter, even if it can't reopen any of its factories outside of China. That suggested that Ford is burning something like $165 million a day, an eye-watering number -- but one that Ford can afford for now.
Ford added some extra insurance on April 17, when it raised an additional $8 billion via a series of bond offerings.
This is why I said Ford investors shouldn't panic: We already know that Ford has the cash to weather the COVID-19 storm.
Three questions for Ford on Tuesday
Here are three questions that I expect Ford investors will want answered during Tuesday's earnings call.
When will Ford's factories reopen?
Back-and-forth hints over the last couple of weeks have suggested that Ford would like to start reopening its U.S. factories in early May, but that the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union wants to wait longer.
I expect that Ford will tell us where things stand on Tuesday afternoon.
Has Ford postponed any future products?
We know that Ford had some important product launches planned for 2020, including the all-new Bronco SUV, a smaller off-road SUV that may be called the Bronco Sport, the electric Mustang Mach-E, and the big one: An all-new F-150 that had been expected by the end of the year.
We also know that Ford has been understandably moving to cut costs while its factories are idled. The question is, which -- if any -- of its future-product programs have been delayed or cancelled?
Ford's margins have been slipping over the past couple of years as its product line has aged. Ford addressed some of the most urgent needs last year with its all-new Explorer and Escape, and both were starting to get traction in the market right before the coronavirus outbreak.
The F-150 is next up. The current model isn't exactly old -- it dates to 2015 -- but its competitors from General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU) are newer, and the F-150 was losing pricing power (and some sales) in the months before the pandemic.
Ford needs to have that all-new truck early in the post-virus recovery. It would also be very helpful for Ford to have some exciting new products (like the Bronco and Mach-E) to bring people back to showrooms once it's safe to reopen.
I expect Ford to give us an update on the status of all these product programs on Tuesday.
How have Ford's sales been since mid-March?
We know that Ford hasn't shipped any vehicles outside of China since its factories closed in March. But it would be helpful to know what its sales have been like in the last few weeks. We know that auto sales in the U.S. and Europe are way down, but they're not zero.
I hope Ford will give us some color on how its sales are faring right now, if only so that we have some idea how things might go once its factories restart.