Ford is a car company that has endured many challenges and travails over the years. Indeed, they are not unlike General Motors and Chrysler in this regard. While they have generally been unscathed as compared to the other two "American" car companies and they are only one of two of the original Big 3 that is still entirely American-controlled, Ford is not dominating the market by any means. Their overall sales figures are going up in terms of volume but their market share and a lot of their important financial metrics reflect flatness or falling rather than rising. Ford has certainly learned some lessons since the Ford Pinto scandal in the 1970's and some other companies are suffering recall problems in more modern days while Ford is doing quite well. Even so, Ford is not keeping up with the market and they need to address that right away (Ford Motor Company, 2015).
Ford is certainly trying to stay ahead of the curve. With 24 model refreshes this year and another 15 next year, they are certainly not letting their models go stale. However, other car companies are still encroaching on their territory and Ford is facing increasing pressure, just like other car companies, from increased government regulations, pickier car consumers and increased globalization of car companies overall. Indeed, only the true exotics and high-end luxury cars are made in their home country and exported to the country of the purchaser. Further, so much of what makes people buy cars hinges on culture (including pop culture), trends, gas prices and so forth. Gas prices in particular have been particularly chaotic, although they are low at this time. To put things concisely, Ford is losing market share (albeit fairly slowly) and they need to make a big splash to get things right. They have some models that perform very strongly but they also have a rather week luxury line and they are missing a model that directly competes with the Corvette (Ford Motor Company, 2015).
Key Strategic Issues
When it comes to the automobile industry, there are several factors and happenstances that are going on right now that Ford needs to be mindful of. Even though Ford has mostly avoided the pitfalls and problems of other car companies, they would be wise to avoid them at all costs. This is especially true given the Ford Pinto debacle of the 1970's where several hundred people died in car fires at least partially related to gas tanks that would explode even on relatively low-speed accidents (WFU, 2015). One issue that will be discussed is the fact that Ford is in quite a unique position as it relates to themselves as compared to the other two members of the "Big 3" automakers that have traditionally been associated with the United States. Only two of the three can now claim to be wholly owned and operated in the United States and the other one besides Ford needed much more help from the federal government than Ford did. Another factor that Ford needs to keep in mind are safety-oriented recalls and the like. Obviously, Ford learned a very hard lesson from the Pinto situation referenced above. However, there are more modern examples of much the same thing going (albeit much less deadlier) with companies like General Motors, Toyota and, most recently Volkswagen (Liker, 2015).
Another shift that Ford is having to deal with is the decreased centralization and increased globalization of car companies around the world. Of course, exotics and many other high-end vehicles are still made in their home countries and imported at great expense to the United States and other destination nations. However, to suggest that only Chrysler, General Motors and Ford are the only carmakers present in the United States is simply false as Toyota, Kia, Hyundai (among others) are making tons of cars in the United States. Many that do not manufacture in the United States are close by in Mexico or Canada. Lastly, Ford will have the balance the desire for high-power engines and the increasing demand, both from the government and the populace, for high-efficiency cars and/or cars that use alternative technologies such as fuel cells, electric batteries and so forth. The recent Great Recession and the emergence of competing car companies making fuel-efficient...
There will also be an assessment of the financial structure and performance of Ford.
Financial & Sales Analysis
Even though the finances of Ford were mentioned last in the preceding section, they will be the first thing focused on for this section and the finances will also be the primary focus. In perusing Ford's 2014 annual report, there are a few concerning numbers. Their overall revenue in 2014 came to $135.8 billion, which was a drop from the equivalent 2013 figure of $139.4 billion. A fall of 2.5% is not cataclysmic but it also not a good overall sign. The 2014 overall operating margin for Ford in 2014 was 3.9%, a fall from 5.4% in 2013. Operating-related cash flow fell by nearly half, dropping from $6.1 billion in 2013 to $3.6 billion in 2014. One bright spot is that pre-tax profit was almost identical between the two years. In actuality, there was actually a slight gain from $1.8 billion in 2013 to $1.9 billion in 2014. However, the news sours again when looking at the net income. The overall net income in 2013 was $7.182 billion but fell by more than half to $3.187 billion in 2014. Even so, the dividends paid actually went up to fifty cents in 2014 from the forty cent figure in 2013 (Ford Motor Company, 2015).
In scanning through the next few pages, Ford makes clear that they have operations all over the world including in North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia/Pacific region. Ford, as a worldwide company, sold about 6.3 million vehicles at the wholesale level in 2014. There were about twelve thousand Ford and/or Lincoln dealers throughout the world with the vast majority of them being Ford-only. A little over a thousand dealers sell Lincolns, in whole or in part. Those that do not sell Lincolns alone also sell Fords. Even with the fairly dour revenue numbers mentioned above, Ford is actually doing quite well on their home turf and in the surrounding area. The fifth page of their annual report reflects that sales totals in the United States, Canada and Mexico have all been climbing steadily from 2012 to 2014. In total, Ford has increased their sales in North America by about 2.4 million units. They lost a bit of ground in South America (Brazil and Argentina), Turkey, Russia, India and the ASEAN area. However, they are gaining ground in German, the Middle East/Africa and China. They have been flat in Australia for the last three years, stuck at 1.1 million units (Ford Motor Company, 2015).
Even if units sold is generally going up, the same cannot be said for market share in many markets. Ford made progress in 2013 by going from 15.2% to 15.7% in the United States. However, they fell to 14.7% in 2014. In Canada, they've been dropping several tenths of a percent a year, dropping from 16.1% in 2012 to 15.5% in 2014. Brazil rose in 2013 and then was flat in 2014. Strong gains were made in Argentina. Results in Europe depended on country but have been falling a tenth of a percent per year for the last three years. Employee headcount for Ford shows that the overall count has risen strongly, from 181,000 in 2013 to 187,000 in 2014. Europe shed about three thousand employees while North American gained six thousand and Asia Pacific gained about five thousand (Ford Motor Company, 2015).
Ford is now in an interesting position when it comes to "American" car companies. As noted before, the concept of an "American" car company becomes more blurred by the day. Indeed, many cars are made in the United States (or at least in North America in general) but of the "Big 3" carmakers of American history, Ford has a clear advantage. General Motors is still owned and operated as an American company but they were the beneficiary of a government bailout, a favorably structured bankruptcy and they were actually owned in large part by the United States government for a period of time during and immediately after the Great Recession. Those factors have led to many people calling the company "Government Motors" or otherwise impugning the fact that they had to be rescued by taxpayer funds. Ford was certainly in rough shape about the same time as this all played out but they relied more on their own capital fundraising and they did not take any government money except in the form of low-cost loans from the federal government (Kimbrough, 2015). Ford also did not file bankruptcy. The other "Big 3" company would be Chrysler and they…
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