Auto parts manufacturer Superior Industries International (NYSE:SUP) reported poor results for the first quarter on Friday, despite beating Wall Street analysts' estimates. Although the company's $0.51 in per-share diluted earnings "beat the Street" by a penny, they declined from the prior year's first-quarter earnings by nearly 40%.

Some investors might still be intrigued by Superior Industries' forward P/E of 12 and its expected five-year earnings growth rate of 10%. And value hounds may be further attracted by the fact that the company carries a huge amount of cash on its books -- nearly $6 per share out of a share price of just $33.50 or so -- and no debt. Other investors might be attracted by the company's buyback of 103,600 of its shares outstanding over the past three months.

All of those facts and figures look good, sure. But tread warily here, dear Fool. When a company has 18% of its share float sold short, there is generally a reason for it. In the case of Superior Industries, that reason is free cash flow. While the company did not release a cash flow statement with its earnings announcement, here is the story told by recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings:

The company's cash hoard reduces its $900 million market cap to just $735 million in enterprise value. That's a good thing. But the company only earned $11.4 million in free cash flow over the past 12 months. That is not a good thing, because it gives the company an enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio of nearly 65 -- very steep for a slow-growth auto parts manufacturer.

Moreover, in its earnings press release, the company suggests that it may be counting on orders from Nissan (NASDAQ:NSANY) for aluminum wheels for Nissan's new Titan pickup and Armada SUV to drive sales growth over coming quarters. Yet according to Nissan, Titan sales to date have been disappointing. While Nissan still hopes to sell 100,000 of the trucks in 2004, over the past four months it has managed to move barely 16,000 of them.

Even worse, the Armada is not exactly garnering rave reviews. On the contrary, from what I have read so far, it could well become the 2004 equivalent of General Motors' (NYSE:GM) Pontiac Aztek -- the butt of innumerable ugly-car jokes. Not a good prospect for either Superior Industries or its shareholders.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.