Despite what some investors believe was good earnings news that caused a rally in the shares of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), its stock continues to trade well below its 52-week high and has performed poorly compared to the stock of General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) over the past year. There remains a good deal of skepticism about Ford’s future, particularly in its core car sales business in the United States and China, the world’s two largest car markets.
Ford’s shares are down over 7% in the past year to $10.41. Its 52-week high is $12.15. GM’s shares are up 8% for the same time frame to $39.68, while the S&P 500 is up 11%.
A look at Ford’s earnings gives a partial explanation for the weak stock performance. In the first quarter, revenue was $40.3 billion, which was down $1.6 billion from the same period a year ago. Net income was $1.1 billion, down $.6 billion over the same period. Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO, said: “With a solid plan in place, we promised 2019 would be a year of action and execution for Ford, and that’s what we delivered in the first quarter.” Nevertheless, the numbers went down.
And sales in the world’s large car markets have been troubled. In the first quarter, Ford’s U.S. sales fell 1.6% to 590,249. If it had not been for strong sales of the F-Series pickup, the top-selling vehicle in America, the number would have been much worse. The company commented: “F-150 and Super Duty combined sales outstripped our nearest competitor by 94,585 trucks — which is 15,939 higher than this point last year.” It is an odd and unclear way to describe a vehicle’s performance.
China sales have been a disaster. In the world’s largest car market, Ford’s sales fell 35.8% to 136,279 in the first quarter. In a statement as part of the release of the numbers: “The company recently announced its new ‘Ford China 2.0’ transformation blueprint to improve sales, accelerate the redesign of its business and sharpen its focus on the Chinese market.” It is hard to believe Ford can recover much in a market with tremendous competition from both local companies and the largest manufacturers in the world, which have to have strong sales in China to be successful overall.
In the first quarter, Ford’s sales in Europe fell 6.2% to 359,400. Roelant de Waard, Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe, said: “I’m very pleased to see that now close to half of our sales come from our commercial vehicles and SUVs.” That is hardly comforting.
Ford’s vehicle sales remain poor enough to worry Wall Street. At least that is what the stock price shows.