It's been a difficult year for investors in Ford Motor Company (F -0.81%). Every time it seemed like the worst was behind the automotive giant, a fresh headwind emerged and the stock kept falling. Challenges are aplenty, but so are opportunities. It's hard to ignore an iconic brand like Ford, especially when it's also adapting to the changing times and investing in the future to ensure it isn't left out of the race.

So does that mean it's time to buy Ford stock, or should you watch from the sidelines? Here's the bull and the bear case for Ford to help you decide.

Ford bull: Unfair to ignore Ford's sales growth and plans

Neha Chamaria: Ford hasn't had it easy this year. From supply chain disruptions to massive vehicle recalls and rising interest rates, the company has been hit from all sides in recent months. Its stock, of course, plunged, leaving investors worried. 

I am bullish about Ford, especially at current prices, and my argument boils down to one thing: Ford's problem is supply, not demand. Despite having nearly 40,000 cars lying in inventory awaiting parts, Ford still managed to grow its revenue by 10% year over year in the third quarter. Ford's vehicle mix also means it can offset pockets of weakness with strength elsewhere, which explains why sales of all Ford's vehicles fell just about 2% in the nine months through October despite all the headwinds. And by October, Ford had already received record orders totaling around 255,000 for 2023 model-year vehicles.

Meanwhile, Ford's electric vehicle (EV) sales are booming. Its EV sales rocketed 120% higher year over year in October, trumping the EV industry's average growth. Ford's all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck clocked its best monthly sales ever since launch earlier this year. In fact, the company saw strong sales growth across all three of its EVs, including the E-Transit vans and Mustang Mach-E crossovers. By late 2023, Ford expects to produce 600,000 EVs globally every year, and then ramp that up to at least 2 million units by 2026.

Ford still expects 15% growth in adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) this year. Evidently, what's hurting Ford -- and investor sentiment around the stock -- most right now is macroeconomic headwinds. Even if some continue to linger, Ford's top line should keep growing, and with it, cash flows as management intensifies efforts to cut costs and up its EV game. Overall, I believe Ford is one of the best blue chip stocks you can buy now for the long term.

Ford bear: Ford's journey from here is long and arduous

Lou Whiteman: Ford management deserves a lot of credit for making sure this century-old titan doesn't go the way of the dinosaur. The company is fully embracing the electric vehicle revolution, committing billions to new powertrain technologies in response to changing consumer preferences.

But for all that hard work, today's Ford is still very much driven by twentieth century realities. For the foreseeable future this is an automaker that is still reliant on the internal combustion engine. Ford hopes to sell 600,000 electric vehicles annually by 2023. If it gets there, that would still only represent 15% of total worldwide sales in 2021.

This year, Ford has struggled to manage supply chains and keep up with demand. The company's third-quarter earnings missed expectations in part because it had tens of thousands of vehicles sitting on lots awaiting key components before they could be sold.

Ford is racing to correct those shortfalls, but is doing so into an increasingly wobbly economy and rising rates. There is a real risk that by the time Ford hits peak production, demand for vehicles will have fallen off considerably and the company will be forced to use discounts to move metal.

A lot of the optimism about Ford's transformation is arguably priced into the stock. Though the shares are down more than 40% from their early-2022 highs, the stock still trades at more than 9 times free cash flow. That's nearly twice its average multiple over the past five years.

I believe Ford is a survivor, and has a chance of fulfilling CEO Jim Farley's goal to be "the leader" in electric vehicles. I also believe the transition will take much longer, and include a lot more speed bumps, than investors who have sent the shares up more than 55% over the past three years realize.

Given Ford's massive planned expenditures and fears the global economy is heading toward a slowdown, Ford shares seem likely to be stuck in neutral. There are better investments among industrial companies right now.