What were Ford Motor Company's (NYSE:F) best headlines in 2015?
Ford started the year off with a fun surprise: An all-new Ford GT supercar. The new GT absolutely stole the show at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. That was great for Ford, and CEO Mark Fields took some time to tell us about it.
That wasn't Ford's only big auto-show surprise in 2015. The company wowed the crowds again with a concept version of its upcoming big Lincoln Continental sedan in New York in April. We got Fields to tell us a bit about that one, too.
Ford's first-quarter earnings weren't so hot, but that wasn't a surprise. Ford CEO Bob Shanks had told us upfront that 2015 would be the year in which Ford's huge investments in new products and expansion would begin to pay off. But he said that the surge probably wouldn't happen until the second half of the year, because it would take that long to get production of the all-new 2015 F-150 pickup up to full speed.
That made sense. It also made for a happy surprise when Ford's second-quarter earnings came with this headline:
Ford's $0.47 per-share profit in the second quarter trounced the $0.37 Wall Street estimate. The surprise was twofold: First, analysts' concerns about the impact of a slowing new-car market in China proved largely unfounded. Second, while supplies of the F-150 were still tight during the quarter, dealers were getting top dollar for the ones they did sell -- and they were also getting top dollar for Ford's hot-selling Edge and Explorer SUVs.
A theme that played out all year -- and that will play out for years to come -- is Fields' push to remake Ford as a dynamic high-tech innovator. As he and other Ford executives see it, Silicon Valley companies like Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) threaten to overturn the auto industry's established ways. For Ford to remain an important provider of what it now calls "personal mobility," the Blue Oval has to be part of the technological upheaval, not a victim of it.
That self-disruption might be about to shift into high gear with what might turn out to be one of 2016's best headlines for Ford: The Blue Oval is said to be in advanced talks with Google about a partnership to build driverless cars.
Meanwhile, Ford is finally building and selling a whole lot of those all-new-for-2015 F-150 pickups. That, and the continued hot demand for Ford's SUVs, helped give Ford's third-quarter profits the boost we all expected.
Last but not least, Ford looks to be on track for another good result in the fourth quarter, as its transaction prices are still very high. High transaction prices suggest that buyers are opting for models that are loaded with options -- a very profitable situation for an automaker.
The year 2015 was good for Ford, one in which years of investments finally began to pay off. If its overseas efforts stay on track -- and if the U.S.'s new-car market continues to be strong -- 2016 could turn out to be even better.