Ford unveils updated Super Duty, defends financial stability

Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday unveiled an upgrade to one of its popular pickup trucks, a new offering that comes as the carmaker faces pressure from investors to improve its financials in 2019 after suffering a string of quarterly profit declines.

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The revamped F-Series Super Duty will come with new gas and diesel engines, smart technology upgrades and design updates, the company said in a statement.

“Super Duty customers have demanding and diverse needs – from towing heavy trailers to repairing critical infrastructure,” said Ford’s North American President Kumar Galhotra. “Our new Super Duty has more power, more payload and towing capability and better technology than ever to help these customers build a better world.”

The new pickup – which ships to dealers in the fall – will be built at Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky, plant and assembled in its Avon Lake, Ohio, facility.

The announcement comes in the midst of Ford’s $11 billion restructuring plan. While specific details have been sparse, the company previously announced layoffs in Europe, where sales fell 8.6 percent to $7.4 billion in the three months through December.

The global overhaul has sparked some fears over Ford’s cash flow and investment grade rating of its debt. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its credit rating in 2018 to one level above junk, according to the Wall Street Journal, while S&P Global Ratings indicated it could lower it within the next 18 months.

Ford, in a statement, defended its balance sheet and “year after year of solid financial results and operating cash flows.”

“As we redesign and restructure our global business, we are building on our areas of strengths, smartly and strategically addressing underperforming products and regions and investing in the future by designing smart vehicles for a smart world. We’re confident that as we do, the market will recognize our progress,” a spokesman said.

In the fourth quarter, Ford reported a $116 million profit loss. Overall for 2018, net income dropped 50 percent to $3.7 billion.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
FFORD MOTOR COMPANY9.11+0.04+0.44%
GMGENERAL MOTORS COMPANY35.24+0.13+0.37%

Experts say Ford has suffered over its lack of new offerings. But the Dearborn, Michigan-based company is hoping for a major turnaround in 2019 and pinning its hopes on a revamped lineup that also includes an upgraded Ford Escape and Explorer, as well as a new Ford Ranger.

“Ford has been in a product drought. That’s been a lot of its problem, that changes this year,” said Michelle Kreb, a senior analyst with AutoTrader.

The F-Series remains the best-selling pickup in the U.S. and is a key part of the effort. On average, Ford sold an F-150 or Super Duty pickup every 29.3 seconds in 2018. But the company lost market share in 2018 to Fiat Chrysler’s Ram.

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“Ford has broken some of the age-old rules in product cycle,” Itay Michaeli, a Citi Research director focused on the U.S. auto sector, recently told Fox Business. “The key with pickup trucks is with this expansion of demand. The installed base, the number of pickup trucks on U.S. roads, has grown significantly for many, many years.”