5 Things Ford Motor Company's Management Wants You to Know

By John RosevearFool.com

A lot of Ford's story in 2014 revolved around the hard work of launching its all-new 2015 F-150 pickup. Ford's management wants us to know that the F-150 will continue to be a big part of its story in 2015. Source: Ford Motor Company.

There were no big surprises in Ford's fourth-quarter and full-year earnings report last week. That's because Ford CEO Mark Fields and CFO Bob Shanks were careful to give investors good guidance: They said earnings would be down because of the costs of new-product launches, and they were right.

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Ford earned $6.3 billion before taxes last year, a significant drop from the $8.6 billion it earned in 2013. But Fields and Shanks wanted us to know something important: 2015 should look a lot better.

Here are five more things that Ford management wants its shareholders to know, from its fourth-quarter earnings conference call on Jan. 29.

Ford got a lot done last year

CEO Mark Fields started off last week's call by touting Ford's achievements in 2014. The message was this: Ford's earnings were down, but that money was spent on a lot of new products that should generate good profits in 2015 and beyond.

Here's what Fields said:

You may not be familiar with all of those product names, so here's some context. The Escort is a new affordable compact car for the Chinese market, whereas the Focus that Americans are familiar with is positioned as a premium model. The Ford Ka is a minicar produced in Brazil, where it's very popular. The Everest is a rugged midsize, truck-based SUV that Ford sells in a number of Asian markets.

The new compact Ford Escort is an affordable alternative to Ford's Focus in China, where the Focus is positioned as an upscale product. Source: Ford Motor Company.

North America will look a lot better in 2015

Fields' list of 2014 product launches started with the all-new F-150, for good reasons. The disruption involved in launching that new truck was a big part of why 2014's earnings were down -- but its success and profitability are a big part of why Ford expects its 2015 earnings to be a lot higher.

Here's what Fields said last week:

This slide from Ford's earnings presentation shows its 2015 guidance by business unit. Source: Ford Motor Company.

Ford is committed to returning cash to shareholders -- but in a prudent way

It seems to be a point of pride for Ford to pay a good dividend. But Ford has also learned the hard lessons taught by Detroit's recent history: It will only return cash to shareholders when it can prudently afford to do so.

That was a point hammered home by now-retired CEO Alan Mulally, who refused to restore Ford's dividend until he felt the company could afford it. Fields, Mulally's successor, wants shareholders to know that he has learned that lesson well -- but he also wants shareholders to know that Ford will ensure that they share in the company's success.

Ford raised its dividend in 2014 and bought back some stock -- and it has already announced another dividend boost in 2015. Here's how Fields put it:

Ford's recent U.S. market share drop was just a blip

As you can see in this slide from Ford's earnings presentation, the company lost some U.S. market share in the fourth quarter.

Source: Ford Motor Company.

Ford wants us to know that that drop was caused by short supplies, mostly of pickups, and not slumping demand. They also want us to know that we should expect a rebound once Ford dealers have good supplies of 2015-model F-150s. (In fact, we saw some signs of that rebound in January.)

Here's what CFO Bob Shanks said during the earnings call:

Earnings will rise in 2015, but they won't follow Ford's usual pattern

As I said above, Ford is pretty good at managing Wall Street's expectations. Ford's historical pattern has been to post its strongest profits in the first and (especially) second quarter, with somewhat lower profits later in the year. That's the normal cycle of its business.

What Ford wants its investors to know right now is that 2015 isn't going to look like that. They even included this graphic in their earnings presentation to make the point:

Source: Ford Motor Company.

What's going on here? Here's how Fields explained it:

Ford has already changed over one of its two truck plants, in Dearborn, Michigan, to make the all-new 2015 F-150. The factory was closed for a total of 12 weeks while that happened. Right now, its other truck factory, near Kansas City, is undergoing the same conversion.

Fields went on to say:

The article 5 Things Ford Motor Company's Management Wants You to Know originally appeared on Fool.com.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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