Bill Ford Dubai
Bill Ford introduced the all-new Mustang in Dubai on the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, while discussing expansion in Middle East and Africa. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

A friend recently asked a question regarding Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) that caught me off guard. The question was in regard to the potential in Ford's Middle East and Africa region, and how lucrative it could be.

My response was to raise one eyebrow and ask if he was serious. But that wasn't fair of me; one would usually think getting into an emerging market would be a great way to quickly expand sales. Furthermore, if Ford wants to maintain competitive economies of scale and expand its global market share, it absolutely has to pay attention to emerging markets and fast-growing newly developed markets. However, this emerging market might not be as lucrative as you would think. So, let's take a quick glance at some numbers and see what Ford's newly created Middle East and Africa region has to offer.

Market details
Ford recently established its new Middle East and Africa business unit, which covers 67 markets where Ford does business in North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa, and the Middle East. The automaker expects industry sales in the region to grow 40% by 2020 -- growth that sounds impressive. 

However, if that 40% growth materializes, it'll only drive automotive industry sales in the region to 5.5 million by 2020, according to Ford. That's not exactly small potatoes, but it's a far cry from the 30 million vehicles expected to sell annually in China by 2020. That 5.5 million level is also only slightly more than one-third the expectations of European sales by 2020, and Europe is still in the grasp of an extremely gloomy market.

Furthermore, looking at Ford's third-quarter report, the automaker's market share in Middle East and Africa is 5.1%; that would equate to 280,500 units sold annually. Digging further, Ford's top-line revenue divided by its wholesale volume in the region suggests vehicles are selling for an average of nearly $23,000. Using that average transaction price, multiplied by 280,500 units, Ford stands to generate roughly $6.4 billion in revenue in the region by 2020. That sounds like a decent amount, but in reality that 2020 estimated revenue would have only accounted for 4.3% of Ford's revenue from last year

Is it a good move?
With all of that said, Ford is absolutely making the right move to expand its presence in the Middle East and Africa -- it's better to get in early, rather than play catch up as Ford is currently doing in China. With that in mind, Ford plans to launch 25 vehicles in the region by 2016, which could significantly jump-start its sales and market share in the region.

Here's a glance at Ford's pre-tax results by region from the third quarter.

F
Graph by author. Data source: Ford Motor Company.

Investors should be thrilled that Ford's management is determined not to miss any opportunity and is looking at markets with a long-term vision. However, the most important stories overseas are how quickly the Asia-Pacific region -- where results are driven largely by China -- turns into Ford's second pillar of revenue and income, as well as how quickly South America and Europe return to profitability. For instance, Asia-Pacific is expected to represent 40% of Ford's revenues by 2020, up from about 8% currently. And as soon as South America and Europe break even consistently, it will add billions annually back to Ford's bottom line. Those are the overseas markets to keep an eye on in the near future.

Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.