Investing is a tricky thing, and that's why many financial advisors get paid the big bucks to do it for you. There are endless ratios and lines of financial information to dissect for any given publicly traded company, and it can be overwhelming.
On the flip side, investing can be as simple as you want to make it. For instance, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) wants to increase its global vehicle sales each year. If it can do that, it should continue to improve its top- and bottom-line profits. Thus, investors would be wise to watch Ford's progress in the world's largest automotive market, China -- a market Ford entered years behind its competitors. Success in China will be critical for Ford to be a market-beating investment.
See how simple that was? Fortunately for investors hoping that Ford does indeed continue selling more and more vehicles, the company is excelling in China.
By the numbers
Looking at the first month of the year emphasizes the success Ford is having in the country recently, and looking at the graph below, something stands out.
Despite January historically being a middle-of-the-pack month for sales figures, Ford broke its monthly sales record in China during the first month of 2015, with sales spiking 19% to more than 112,000 units sold. Driving Ford's success are three models that Chinese consumers are falling in love with: the Escort, Mondeo (Fusion), and Focus. Ford's Focus ended 2014 on a high note as it was named the best-selling nameplate in China for the third consecutive year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Importing vehicles to China is expensive, which makes sense, because shipping vehicles that can weigh between one and two metric tons by boat across the globe isn't all that efficient. Despite that fact, Ford's imported vehicle sales -- which include the Mustang, Explorer, and Edge -- spiked 18% in January as well, but only accounted for roughly 3,000 sales.
Adding in Ford's China sales in February, which is historically the weakest month of the year for the company, brings its two-month sales total to nearly 192,000. That's a healthy 15% increase over last year, and it signals that Ford's growth in China is set to continue in the double digits for 2015.
More, more, more!
Toward the end of 2014, Ford's sales growth seemed to stall in China, and that was mostly because the automaker's production was practically at its limit. In November, however, Ford opened its third assembly plant in Chongqing, which will increase its production capacity by 360,000 units annually. That will enable Ford to continue increasing its sales in 2015 before another plant comes online in Hangzhou sometime in 2016 -- which will add another quarter-million in production capacity.
For Ford, this is a simple situation: Sell more and more cars in China, and reduce the dependence it has on North America for nearly all of its profits. Currently, Ford's Asia-Pacific region, which is largely driven by China's results, is the automaker's second-most-profitable region and accounted for roughly 22% of Ford's wholesale units sold in 2014. Ford expects that to nearly double by 2020, when it expects China alone to generate 40% of total sales.
Ford's market share in China, which was recently hovering around 4%, should be able to hit 5% in the near term as Ford continues to grow sales at nearly twice the rate of overall sales growth in China . While that's a long shot from the two top foreign automakers in China, Volkswagen and General Motors, which both own near 15% market share in the country, it means Ford has a shot in 2015 to further its sales lead on Nissan, Toyota, and Honda in China to secure itself as the fourth-largest foreign automaker in China -- and that would be a huge win for Ford and its investors alike. Stay tuned.