Ford Motor (F 0.21%) shares drove into a ditch Tuesday after the automaker warned supply chain problems would eat into current-quarter results.
Ford is hardly alone in warning about the impact of a challenging global economy, and the automaker remains confident the problems are temporary. But Ford said it expects to end the quarter with thousands of mostly completed vehicles sitting on its lots awaiting key parts, costing the company billions in delayed sales.
With Tuesday's drop, the stock is now down more than 45% from its highs for the year. Ford is currently navigating a difficult stretch of highway. But for long-term focused investors, there is reason to believe Ford stock is no lemon.
Chip shortages take their toll
Assembling a modern automobile is a complex task. The average new car has roughly 30,000 parts, including more than 1,200 microchips. If supplies of just a couple of those parts get backed up, it can cause the entire assembly line to clog.
That's exactly the situation Ford laid out in an update released after markets closed Monday. Ford says it expects to have about 40,000 to 45,000 vehicles in inventory at the end of the third quarter that lack certain parts currently in short supply. And unfortunately, the vehicles stuck waiting for parts are disproportionately high-demand, high-margin truck and SUV models.
Ford said that the delays will shift some revenue, and net income, to the fourth quarter. The automaker is also dealing with the impact of inflation, warning that supply costs in the current quarter will be about $1 billion above plan. All in all, Ford expects third-quarter adjusted earnings before interest and taxes to fall in the range of $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion, well below the $3.7 billion Ford earned last quarter.
Are better times right around the corner?
The news wasn't all bad. Ford reiterated its full-year guidance for earnings of between $11.5 billion and $12.5 billion, implying that it does expect that the sales it is forced to forgo this quarter will be made up in the fourth quarter.
More broadly, it is encouraging to hear Ford imply that demand remains steady despite choppy economic conditions. The Federal Reserve's campaign to fight inflation with higher interest rates threatens to cool spending on big-ticket items like automobiles, and some investors have worried that a combination of higher borrowing rates and consumers having to spend more on household essentials like food and rent would eat into auto sales in the quarters to come.
That still might happen, but for now at least, Ford's problem is keeping up with demand, not finding buyers for its vehicles. The automaker said it would announce full third-quarter results and "provide more dimension about expectations for full-year performance" on Oct. 26.
Is it time to buy Ford stock?
Ford's difficulties shouldn't come as a total surprise. Earlier this year, the automaker temporarily shut down production at certain facilities due to supply constraints, and at one point was shipping some SUVs without certain noncrucial chips, with plans to add them later when they became available. And Ford archrival General Motors (GM 0.81%) in July said it had 95,000 vehicles in inventory as of that it couldn't sell until certain semiconductors were delivered.
But analysts by and large had expected the supply constraints to ease in the second half of the year, and Ford's announcement if nothing else is a warning to investors that we are not out of the woods yet. Given that the Fed is nowhere near finished raising rates, and that rising rates are a threat to demand, there is a risk that by the time Ford has the parts it needs to mass-produce its most popular vehicles, demand for those vehicles will be lower.
This has always been a cyclical business, and Ford could end up missing what's left of an up cycle due to its supply chain problems.
But for long-term investors, there is a lot to like. Ford is in the early days of a transformation away from internal combustion engines and toward electric vehicles, and has seen initial success with electric offerings, including its F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E. The company is well positioned to weather any macroeconomic headwinds up ahead while still investing in its future, with nearly $30 billion in cash on its balance sheet.
Ford has clearly hit a speed bump, and depending on how quickly supply chains normalize, it could take time for the stock to accelerate into the fast lane. But the stock is now trading below five times earnings, and investors set to receive a dividend yielding more than 4% will have to wait through the downturn.
Ford's ultimate success will come down to how it manages that EV transition and not to any short-term supply chain shortfall. For investors who believe the company's transformation will be a success, the share sell-off looks like a buying opportunity.