Christian Mayes, an auto analyst for investment firm Edward Jones, said that besides the time and money that ‘‘right-sizing the European operations’’ is going to require, Ford investors have other reasons to worry.
European automakers such as Mercedes who are struggling at home are planning lower-cost cars for the U.S. market that will compete with Fords. And competition from Japanese and Korean automakers remains strong. Ford lost U.S. market share in 2012 as Japanese automakers came roaring back after the 2011 earthquake in Japan.
Shanks said Ford expects to gain U.S. market share this year. The company is expecting pickup sales to increase, which should benefit the F-Series, and the new Escape and Fusion should also do well now that the safety recalls are behind them.
Sales of cars and trucks in the U.S. totaled 14.5 million in 2012 — the industry’s best performance in five years. Forecasts are for an even better 2013, with the Polk auto research firm forecasting 15.3 million vehicle sales as the economy continues to improve.
Shanks said Ford’s margins will stay in the 5-percent range in 2013 even though sales are expected to increase. That’s partly because of the company’s continuing pension obligations. Ford plans to contribute $5 billion to its pensions in 2013, up from $3.4 billion last year.
Ford’s fourth-quarter profit totaled $1.6 billion, down from a $13.6 billion profit a year earlier. But the profit actually rose by $600 million absent a big accounting-related gain in last year’s quarter.
Ford earned 31 cents per share, up from an adjusted 20 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2011. That beat analysts’ forecast of 25 cents per share, according to FactSet.
Fourth-quarter revenue rose 5 percent to $36.5 billion, beating analysts’ forecast of $33.5 billion.
In North America, Ford’s pretax profit more than doubled in the fourth quarter to $1.87 billion.