Ford (F) Earnings: Still Cutting Costs, No Plans For Better Cars

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Ford (F) had one piece of good news. It is still cutting costs. It is on track to cut annual expenses by $5 billion compared with 2005.

For obvious reasons, the company’s earnings highlighted how much cash the company has, which is $29.6 billion between hard currency and lines of credit. No one thinks that is enough to get it through the current disaster in the auto industry.

However, there was absolutely nothing of note in the entire announcement to indicate that Ford was putting a big load of effort behind building better cars.

In the third quarter revenue fell $9 billion to $32 billion. After tax, the company lost $3 billion.

Ford came up with a huge list of things it might do to make its situation better, but none of them had to do with making and selling better cars. Those "improvements" include an additional 10% reduction in North American salaried personnel-related costs; a reduction in capital spending enabled by efficiencies in Ford’s global engineering and product development; a reduction in manufacturing, information technology, and advertising costs due to the company’s "One Ford" global operations; and a reduction of inventories globally. Ford also said it would continue to explore divestitures of non-core assets and utilize equity-for-debt swaps and other incremental sources of financing to strengthen the company’s balance sheet.

In other words, slashing and financial engineering are at the core of the Ford plan.

In North America Ford had a pre- tax loss of $2.6 billion, compared with a loss of $1 billion a year ago. The decline reflected unfavorable volume and mix, and unfavorable net pricing, partly offset by cost.changes.

In Europe, a "bright spot", the company reported a pre-tax profit of $69 million, compared with $293 million a year ago. The decline was primarily due to unfavorable cost changes.

The only real region which was a winner was South America which reported a pre-tax profit of $480 million, compared with $386 million a year ago. The increase reflected higher net pricing, favorable volume and mix, and favorable changes in currency exchange rates.

The one place Ford really needed to do well was a a bust. In Asia Pacific and Africa, Ford had a pre-tax profit of $4 million compares with $30 million a year ago. The decline was due to unfavorable volume and mix, partly offset by favorable net pricing.