By Stuart Burns
While we wouldn’t totally agree with the writer’s statement in the Associated Press that Ford Motor (NYSE:F) is finally becoming the well-rounded company it aspires to be, you have to admire the firm’s return to profitability after teetering on the brink of collapse just a few years ago – and without a taxpayer bailout.
Part of the case for Ford being a well-rounded car company is the migration to profitably selling small and medium-sized vehicles across the globe, from its position a decade ago of being almost totally reliant on the North American big truck market.
Apparently, Ford’s Asian operations earned a record quarterly profit of $117 million in the three months ended June 30, with 20% of Ford’s sales coming from the region. That’s up from 11% five years ago. Sales also grew in South America, where second-quarter profit jumped to $151 million from $5 million a year ago. European operations still showed a loss, but at least it was less than a year earlier.
Credit where credit is due, Ford is turning a profit on its small cars, and the firm is making a lot more of them.
According to some measures, the Ford Focus has become the number one top-selling small car in the world during the first quarter, according to Bloomberg’s Businessweek, outselling the Toyota (NYSE:TM) Corolla.* Ford sold over a million of them last year, with China taking over 10%, as sales there ramped up 153%.
*The debate is around sales of Corollas under a different model name; when these are added in, the Corolla family still outsells the Focus.
But Ford is still heavily dependent on the U.S. market both for sales and profits.
North American operations contributed the bulk of Ford’s net income, some $1.23 billion, up 18.5% in the April-June quarter on the back of sales of Ford’s F-Series pickup, jumping 26% in the second quarter. While sales of small cars and the firm’s C-Max hybrid have grown impressively, the firm is still overly reliant on the pickup truck for profits and sales volume. A new 2015 version will likely boost sales further as America’s love of pickup trucks and a recovering economy combine to replace the aging fleet built up post-financial crisis.
Despite Ford Motor’s best efforts, the firm is unlikely to weed itself off the pickup anytime soon.