Almost No One Admires This Company, but Everyone Trades Its Stock

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) was near the top of the Fortune 500 for years. It was among the world’s manufacturing pillars. That has changed over the past decade as Ford’s prospects for rapid growth have disappeared, and tech companies have taken its place among America’s most successful public corporations. However, Ford is the most widely traded stock listed on the two major exchanges, based on the volume of one of America’s largest brokers.

Huge online trading firm Robinhood tracks the companies most traded by its customers. Robinhood almost certainly has the largest trading volume of equities among brokerage firms, and it is famous for the massive trading volume it produced. That makes it an excellent proxy for private investor activity. Ford tops its “leaderboard” of the most widely traded securities. It is no coincidence that Ford’s trading volume is extremely high among all stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange, at almost 90 million shares a day. As a consequence, investors can get in and out of the stock almost immediately without affecting its share price.

Ford’s stock price is down 53% over the past five years, while the S&P 500 is up 51%. The company has gone through a succession of chief executive officers over the past decades, as it has tried to regain its lead among the global car manufacturers. Nevertheless, its sales have declined so much that it will never match the global car sales of Volkswagen, General Motors and Toyota. Its luxury division, Cadillac, will never catch the sales volume of rivals BMW, Mercedes and Lexus. Its only really successful model is the F-150 pickup, which is the top-selling vehicle in America.

Aside from weak sales in the U.S. market, Ford has failed in China, the world’s largest car market, where its sales have plunged. It is late to the electric and autonomous car business, which Tesla currently controls. Other large manufacturers have tried to catch Tesla in electric car sales. None has been successful.

Why is Ford the most widely traded stock by individual investors? One reason is the liquidity of the stock, which existed before Robinhood. Another may be its presence as one of America’s best-known but failed brands.