The growth of the middle class in China continues to ignite the automobile market as United States and foreign car manufacturers compete for market share. In 2012, China sold 19.1 million passenger vehicles. This ranks ahead of both Europe and the United States (14.5 million). The amazing thing is this number is expected to hit 33 million by the year 2020.
Total volume for 2013 is expected to be 19.5 to 21.5 million in China alone. In 2012, Ford (NYSE:F) had only a 3.2% market share in the Chinese automotive market. This area has remained one of the company's key growth targets and a strong reason why investors should go long now while they have the chance.
Ford announced in April that it aimed to capture a market share of 6% in China within three years. Ford was late to the party and ranks behind both General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Volkswagen in Chinese market share. In 2012, Volkswagen led the country with a 19.5% share, while GM had 10% of the Chinese market. In the most recently reported March month, Ford sold 81,387 vehicles in China. This marked an increase of 65%. In the first quarter, sales of Ford vehicles in China were up 54% to 186,596.
Doubling its market share will be huge for Ford in the Chinese region. In pure numbers, six percent of the 19 million vehicles sold in 2012 would have been 1.14 million vehicles. This market share can continue to grow with the help of new products and joint ventures.
To help with its growth in China, Ford has announced it will launch several new vehicles to the market. The company's goal is to launch 15 new Ford models by the year 2015. In the first quarter, Ford launched the Ford Focus ST and Ford Fiesta. In March, sales of the Focus hit 37,814. The Focus will hit its one year anniversary in the region in the month of May.
Ford has a joint venture with Jiangling, an automotive company founded in 1952. The joint venture began in 1997 and covers commercial vehicles. Sales in March hit 25,600, a 16% increase from the previous year. In the first quarter, Jiangling sold 56,420 vehicles under the joint venture. Ford believes so much in this joint venture, it recently increased its stake. Ford now owns 31.5% of Jiangling Motors. This is near the 32%, which is the highest amount allowed by Hong Kong regulators. Ford's stake is valued at $705 million. Jiangling makes light trucks, SUVs, and Ford transit vans. The Chinese commercial vehicle continues to grow and Ford is at the forefront with this joint venture and its ownership stake in Jiangling.
The other joint venture Ford has is with Changan Ford Automobile. In March, sales with Changan were up 102% to 55,348. During the first quarter, Changan sales with Ford hit 128,006, which was an increase of 92%. These huge 100% increases have powered Ford's presence in the region and bode well for the future.
Around the world, Ford has a much stronger penetration in other regions. China's market share of 3.2% is one of its smallest in key markets. In North America, Ford had a market share of 15.2%. Ford had a market share of 7.9% in Europe, 9.0% in South America, and 2.8% in Asia/Pacific/Africa.
Shares of Ford trade at $12.93. Despite the recent increase in shares, they are still down from fifty two week highs of $14.30. Shares are down in 2013 by around 1%. Shares in 2012 rallied over 16%. Despite the rise in 2012, shares are still down from highs of $18.65 in January of 2011.
Analysts on Yahoo Finance are predicting the company will earn $1.39 per share in 2013. Shares of Ford currently trade at less than 10 times this year's earnings. Analysts think the company will earn $1.67 per share in 2014, giving shares a forward price to earnings of 7.7.
China is a huge market and a key opportunity for Ford. Investing in Ford at current prices is a great opportunity for growth investors. The company pays a dividend and also offers a price to earnings ratio of under 10. Ford is working on doubling its market share in China, the biggest automobile market in the world. The time to go long Ford shares has arrived and may not return.
Disclosure: I am long F. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.