SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Ford posted a 44 percent surge in second-quarter profit, exceeding analysts' estimates thanks to consumers paying big money for fully loaded versions of the new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup.
Ford reported net income of $1.9 billion, or 47 cents a share, compared with $1.3 billion, or 32 cents per share a year earlier. Profit beat the 37-cent average estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
The results ease pressure on Ford for the second half. CEO Mark Fields has pledged pretax profit will grow by as much as 51 percent this year as Ford resumes full production of the F-150, its top-selling model. Ford started offering discounts of more than $10,000 on the new truck in some areas after U.S. sales fell 8.9 percent last month.
"We are confident the second half of the year will be even stronger," Fields said.
Ford has said it will be the end of September before dealers are fully stocked with F-series trucks, which account for 90 percent of its global auto profits, according to Morgan Stanley.
"Ford is all about the second half of this year," said David Whiston, an analyst for Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, who rates Ford the equivalent of a buy. "The F-150 will be at full availability then and the new Edge and Explorer SUVs are coming out at a time when gas is still pretty cheap."
Ford has said it is selling many of its F-150s loaded with pricey leather seats and technology, which helps margins. The truck is selling for $44,100 on average, the highest transaction price in the full-size pickup segment, according to Ford.
Ford's pretax operating income in North America rose to a record of $2.6 billion from $2.4 billion, as Ford boosted North American production by 1.6 percent to 815,000 cars and trucks. Ford said it now believes its North American operating margin will be the high end of its forecast of 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent.
Lower sales of cars and pickups reduced Ford's U.S. market share to 15.1 percent in the first half from 15.5 percent last year, according to researcher Autodata Corp. F-Series sales fell 2.4 percent in the first half. Second-quarter automotive sales slipped to $35.1 billion from $35.3 billion.
Revenue was reduced by a $2.2 billion currency hit from the strong dollar in overseas markets, Bob Shanks, Ford's chief financial officer, told reporters at the automaker's headquarters in Dearborn. .
Ford's shares had fallen 6.1 percent this year to close Monday at $14.55, valuing the company at $57.8 billion.
Investors have been frustrated waiting for the F-150 to hit its stride and have driven down shares by 12 percent since they peaked at $16.57 on March 2.