Ford's (NYSE:F) been on a roll lately; it seems the good news and strong sales keep coming in. It doubled its dividend earlier this year, to the delight of many investors. It's Fusion and Focus have been selling well, while the F-Series has dominated as usual. It's paying down its debt, and bringing in higher margins and profits than investors have seen in years. Management has kept the company in line with future trends and continually makes decisions for investors' best interests. It leaves me singing "I want more more more!" As if Ford heard my terrible singing, it obliged and gave me two more reasons to be more excited. There's proof Ford is changing consumers' perceptions of its vehicles for the better. It's also released proof its recycling strategy is bringing gains straight to the bottom line. Let's see how these two factors set Ford up for success in the future.
Producing valuable vehicles
Ford and General Motors (NYSE:GM) both have lost market share to Japanese automakers consistently for years. Most of this loss was due to the stereotype of poor quality that plagued domestic manufacturers. However, since the recession Ford has finally figured it out and is now producing high-quality vehicles that consumers are buying in droves. For proof, just look at the recent U.S. News "Best Cars for the Money Awards 2013" where Ford took home the most awards with six. It also represented six of the nine awards combined from all domestic automakers. Here are the award-winning vehicles that look to help Ford reclaim some of its lost market share, and help bring in top line revenues.
Ford's Fusion cleaned up and took the No. 1 spot in midsize cars, and the hybrid version took the No. 1 spot in its category. Not to be outdone, the hot-selling Focus came out on top in the compact division while the Taurus took home the award for large cars. Pretty impressive, and these vehicles will be the most important when it comes to gaining market share. They don't carry the high margins that larger vehicles do, but the volume can make up for some of that going forward. Let's take a look at the awards for crossover vehicles. Ford's Escape led the pack in the compact SUV division while the Edge model led in its midsize division. In the crossover segments, Ford and Lexus were the only brands to take home more than one award.
Consumer sentiment and brand image are huge factors when it comes to maintaining customer loyalty. Ford's done extremely well with both, as its brand resonates positively with consumers because it didn't take a government bailout. The consumer is slowly coming around to realize that domestic quality has made a huge comeback. Now that Ford is creating a valuable vehicle, and one the consumer is demanding, it's time to take those top line revenues all the way to the bottom line. Alan Mulally set forth the "One Ford" plan which has helped create efficiency throughout the company and contributed to its improving profits. Here's a small example of a recent success in that aspect.
When you can use less raw material, or reuse leftovers, you can take gains straight to the bottom line. That's exactly the mentality Ford is taking with its global operations. After the recession, Mulally knew there needed to be massive changes to be consistently profitable. One of the things he changed was a strategy that reduced the amount of waste per vehicle during 2007-2011 from 37.9 to 22.7 pounds, a reduction of 40%. That would be a success story in itself, but Ford plans to repeat that 40% reduction of waste from 22.7 to 13.4 pounds by 2016. As an investor, this sounds great, but what does it bring to the bottom line?
There are definitely financial benefits, which end up rewarding us all. In 2012, the amount of revenue saved through recycling efforts was measured at $225 million. To put that in perspective, its roughly 13% of the yearly loss incurred in Europe, which made headlines during the last earnings report. Ford is going as far as reducing the amount of water used in manufacturing vehicles up to 30% by 2015. It has a similar plan for energy consumption, reducing it up to 25% by 2016. Ford is already bringing in some of the best margins it's seen in over a decade, and it only looks to improve as it focuses on being more efficient globally.
It's important that automakers have learned lessons from the recession. Domestic automakers were unprofitable even when vehicle sales remained steady; when the sales disappeared, huge losses took place. After seeing the failures first hand, Ford has really taken it to heart to make sure if sales disappear it's still running efficiently enough to remain profitable. It's management decisions like this that make me sleep at night as an investor. Ford is clearly producing a valuable vehicle, and taking revenues to the bottom line with efficient global operations. This is a stock worth owning as the U.S. automotive market recovers.