Ford plunges after warning ‘we don’t see growth,’ warns US auto industry ‘has plateaued’
The reason Ford stock is plunging this morning is not so much the company’s earnings miss, when the U.S. auto giant reported Q2 EPS of $0.52, below the $0.60 expected, but because in some startling language, CEO Mark Fields laid out a very gloomy picture of the future.
As the company reported in its press release, it told investors to “expect another strong year of results, and Ford committed to full year guidance of company pretax profit and operating margin equal to or better than last year; however, company now sees risks challenging achieving guidance. Entire Ford team working to mitigate the risks.”
A key part of the problem is one shown here repeatedly over the past year, namely the troubling increase in auto inventories, which are now at five-year highs, and the inventory to sales ratio back to levels seen during the last recession.
Whether the pile-up of autos at dealers is the main threat to future sales is not certain, as the company was relative vague about the risks facing it. What it was not vague at all, about, however, is that the company, which until recently was the stalwart of the only U.S. manufacturing sector to be humming along while the rest of U.S. non-service industries tumbled, now thinks the future is suddenly very unclear and full of risks.
“We’re committed to meeting our guidance, but it is at risk,” Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told reporters Thursday. The company now says it’s unlikely that U.S. vehicle sales will break last year’s record, and Shanks predicted further contraction in 2017. “We don’t see growth, at least in the near term.”
“We do think the U.S. is coming down from what we expected, “Shanks said. “We saw higher U.S. incentives – that was for the industry and for us. The industry increased and we increased in line with the industry.”
“We are working, as we did in the first half, to deliver profit improvement actions,” Shanks said. “We do have risks. We’ve seen those risks. We’ve addressed those risks in the first half. We need to continue to do that in the second half and deliver the guidance that we’re committed to do.”
“What we’re seeing is that over time, particularly as the U.S. industry has started to plateau, we’ve seen a very gradual, modestly rising incentive level,” Shanks said later in a conference call with analysts.
Ford lowered its estimates for full-year industry sales in the U.S., saying second-half sales will be “much weaker than normal” and said next year’s sales will be even weaker.
And while we know that there is a massive inventory buildup, the question is why. One reason was presented here this Monday when we reported that “Subprime Snaps: Largest US Subprime Auto Lender Delays Earnings Due To “Accounting Matters.” And while we await Santander Commercial to file its delayed, and adjusted, earnings report, it appears that even without the hard data one can conclude that the subprime driven auto-boom, which propelled the auto industry over the past two years, has finally ended.