The bad news for investors in Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is that Wall Street continues to shun the stock. The good news is that as the stock falls, its yield rises. That benefit works unless Ford cuts its dividend, which has become part of the speculation about how the car manufacturer will perform financially in the next several quarters. Its turnaround continues to be no turnaround at all.
The cornerstone of new success for Ford always needed to happen in its home market. As it sheds most of the cars in its lineup in the United States in favor of sport utility vehicles, crossovers and trucks, critics wonder what will happen if gasoline prices rise over the next several years and consumers turn their backs on low-mileage, large vehicles.
Ford’s plan to offset this and even gain in sales is a future fleet of electric and autonomous cars. Ford faces worry that the American public will be slow to adopt these in favor of traditional engines and hybrids. Ford does not appear to have an advantage in the world of new technology anyway. Most of the world’s largest manufacturers intend to build self-driving and electric cars. They also compete with tech companies going after the same customers. At the top of this list is Alphabet’s Waymo. And Tesla could keep the lion’s share of the electric car market for several years, at least in the United States.
Ford’s failure in China, the world’s largest car market, continues to be frightening. Few auto manufacturers believe they can have earnings success without a foothold there. Ford is not among the half-dozen largest foreign car companies in China. Its sales there continue to be demolished, dropping 30% to 131,060 in the third quarter. The Chinese car market is also contracting, so Ford’s small market share is under even more pressure.
Ford’s dividend yield is almost 7%, astonishing for a large American company. A 16% drop in its stock in the past three months has helped get it there. Wall Street wonders if Ford can afford to keep the dividend so high if its financial struggles continue. If the dividend is cut, Ford loses its final appeal to investors.