2014 is a transition year for Ford (NYSE:F), as the company will be introducing around 23 new models worldwide. Due to these new launches, Ford's profit may decline in the current fiscal. Along with that, because of tough competition, margins could also take a hit. However, the company's investments in new vehicles should help Ford do well in the future if we look ahead of the short-term issues.
Past strategies are yielding results
In fact, Ford's results already show that its initiatives are leading to improvements. According to the recent sales figures, Ford's performance in the U.S. was better than expected, with February sales falling 6%. Its car sales were down 14%, while utility sales dipped 4%. But, the automaker's pick-up trucks showed some strength, with sales up nearly 3%. Its number one selling pick-up truck, the F-series, had its best sales in February in eight years. Apart from this, its luxury Lincoln MKZ sedan also showed improvement, with sales improving three times.
Talking about Ford's overseas performance, it performed brilliantly in China, with 73,040 vehicles sold in February, an increase of 67% year-on-year. Ford's numbers in China have been increasing every month since December. The company's solid performance in China is supported by strong demand for the Ford Focus, which is its best-selling car, along with the Ford Mondeo. To support its growing market in China, the automaker would invest $100 million in R&D at the Nanjing facility, which will be followed by the opening of two new facilities at Chongqing this year.
More investments ahead
The automaker is sticking to its plan of spending $5 billion on doubling production capacity and escalating R&D efforts in China to double its market share by the end of 2015. Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported:
Ford plans to increase the number of employees at the Nanjing complex to around 2,000 people by 2018 from roughly 1,300 today. When Ford moved into the current facility in 2007, the center had around 300 employees. The current facility can accommodate 1,600 workers.
The company has invested more than $200 million in the center. The expansion plan involves an additional investment of $100 million.
Ford said it is adding a third building in the Nanjing complex but provided no additional details on timing.
The auto maker is adding a test track 60 miles from the Nanjing facility. Ford said it was working to make the track operational as early as possible. The track will help researchers in the Nanjing area to expand their vehicle-development capabilities and allow them to play a bigger role in Ford's new global vehicle-design programs, the company said.
Ford's escalated R&D efforts and the increasing production capacity will prove to be fruitful in the long run, as the Chinese auto industry is expected to grow at a fast pace. According to Reuters, the auto industry in China will jump to 11% in 2014.
Bullish on Europe
Ford also has a positive outlook for Europe. It hopes to reach the break-even point by 2015 in Europe. It is depending on new models to accelerate its growth in the Euro zone. The company has launched 11 new models since last year, and is planning to roll out 10 more in this fiscal. With 9.2% growth reported in January, the company is positive about its growth prospects in the continent.
Ford is planning to reduce loses by shutting down manufacturing plants in Europe, which will save $450 million to $500 million. The European auto market is estimated to rise modestly, which should provide a much-needed boost to all auto manufacturers. Ford outpaced the industry's growth in Europe in February, and is betting on the launch of new models to sustain this momentum. Roelant de Waard, vice president of marketing, sales, and service for Ford of Europe said:
We recently just started selling our all-new Transit two-tonne van and we just unveiled the new Focus, which goes on sale later this year. These are just two of the 10 new vehicles we will launch in Europe in 2014. It's this constant new vehicle momentum that is driving our business in a positive direction.
Valuation and conclusion
So, with growth expected across all markets, Ford's investments in new models will help the company bring more customers into its fold. Moreover, the company is cheaper than its peers on a trailing P/E basis, and also has a superb dividend yield of 3.30%. Ford's P/E ratio of 8.7 is way cheaper than its arch rival, General Motors, which trades at an expensive 14.5 times earnings. Thus, with the roll-out of an outstanding 23 new models, and growth across different markets, Ford is set to scale new heights in the future.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. 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.