After a record year in 2015, with 17.5 million new cars and trucks sold in the US, the auto industry is currently fending off predictions that the boom is over and that car makers will repeat the sins of the past.
Namely, that they will fritter away their profits on incentives, push vehicles into fleet sales, and avoid preparing for shifts in the consumer demand by keeping too many pickups and SUVs in the manufacturing mix.
“Show me discipline ever in this industry!” said American Honda Motor executive John Mendel in an interview with Business Insider at the New York Auto Show.
“It’s never there. Everybody says, ‘We learned,’ and then six months later its a junkie right out of rehab.”
Mendel’s perspective isn’t shared by Ford CFO Bob Shanks, who talked with Business Insider right after the automaker strong first-quarter earnings were released on Thursday.
“That thesis has been out there,” he said. “But it hasn’t happened.”
“We can deliver fantastic performance, and we have opportunities for improvement outside North America. So I don’t buy that. “
Shanks was alluding to Ford’s business in Europe, which has been strengthening over the past year, as well as operations in South America, where political and economic turmoil has undermined Ford sales. Ford doesn’t expect the situation there to improve, but on a conference call with analysts after earnings were released, CEO Mark Fields highlighted the company’s better outlook for Argentina.
Shanks also showed some displeasure that the “no discipline” thesis continues to circulate, and that investors have stubbornly refused to reward Ford for solid financial results over the the past few years. The stock barely moved on Thursday — up 1% to $14 — despite Ford turning in a record quarter for profits.
“It’s frustrating,” he said.