'Ford is definitely not in denial:' CEO Mark Fields is hoping 3 key factors will help boost profits

Ford has been having a tough time. The car maker’s stock price has fallen more than a third since Mark Fields became CEO in July 2014.

“Ford is definitely not in denial,” UBS analysts said in a note after hosting an investor lunch with Mark Fields, the CEO of the Detroit-based automaker.

“Fields was extremely candid about the market challenges including slowing US sales, pricing pressure & rising commodities,” UBS said.

Still, Fields sounded optimistic about Ford’s target for improved pretax profit in 2018 based on three key drivers, according to UBS: Lower or stable spending on emerging opportunities, product launches and revamps, and rising SUV ownership.

The reference to spending on new opportunities is telling. Many of the investor questions at the lunch focused on emerging technologies like electric vehicles, autonomous cars, Big Data, and ride-sharing.

“Fields is focused on preserving Ford’s core strengths while investing in these new opportunities,” UBS said.

“Ford plans to launch a Level 4 AV in 2021; will roll out Chariot ride sharing to 8 cities by year end (2 now); will launch 13 ‘electrified’ cars in the next 5 years (includes hybrid F-150, Transit PHEV, & +300 mile range pure EV SUV); and is already realising early benefits from Big Data investment (now building second data center),” UBS said.

The bank is optimistic about the automaker’s stock. It has a price target of $US14 per share for Ford, above its current market price of $US11.02.

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