Pickup enthusiasts like to talk about towing capacity.
Ford is counting on it, in mid-March publicly hitching the entire 115-year-old automaker to its truck franchise that is led by the bestselling F-150, hoping to haul the company’s stock and image out of the muck where it has been spinning its wheels for months.
It’s a good idea, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas had coincidentally argued in a note to investors, asserting that the F-Series franchise is actually more valuable than the company as a whole.
Ford recently announced that 86 percent of its North American production by 2020 would be trucks and SUVs, up from 70 percent now.
CEO Jim Hackett and his top lieutenants for North America showed the press and industry analysts SUVs scheduled for release in the next 24 months, on the condition that the news media not reveal design details.
“Car companies only do this when they’re in trouble,” said John McElroy, host of “Autoline” and a longtime industry observer. “The stock price has gone nowhere. And Wall Street has been heavily critical of Ford for being in a real product drought.”
While Ford’s balance sheet is a fortress with ample resources, stalled spending on future products has dulled enthusiasm.
“Ford’s out-of-favor status has brought valuation to where the F-150 may be worth” more than 150 percent of the company’s enterprise value, wrote Jonas, whose broader point was that Ford is underappreciated on Wall Street.
Ford gets about $41 billion in revenue from the F-Series brand. “The revenue of what’s generated at the Kentucky Truck Plant alone would be a Fortune 500 company,” Joe Hinrichs, president of global operations at Ford, said last month.
Skepticism is rampant, though.
“It’s a bold move to pull back on passenger cars almost completely, but the good news is that the consumer shift to SUVs shows no signs of slowing down,” said Jeremy Acevedo, industry analysis manager at Edmunds. “However, this trend is far from a secret, and by the time 2020 rolls around, Ford’s new vehicles will have a lot of stiff competition.”