Tag Archive | "Ford Motor Co."

Ford May Be Close to Naming Fields to Replace Mulally As CEO


Via Forbes

Ford Motor Co. is poised to tap COO Mark Fields to succeed Alan Mulally in the company’s top job later this year, according to Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg, which cites unidentified sources, says Ford could announce the promotion and reveal Mulally’s retirement date as early as May 1.

It would be the second shoe to drop after Ford promoted Fields, 53, to the chief operating job in December 2012, making him Mulally’s heir apparent. A new announcement could reassure company employees and Wall Street. Both were rattled by rumors late last year that Mulally might leave to take the top job at Microsoft Corp.

He didn’t deny the conjectures until January.

Mulally, 68, has said he intends to remain the automaker’s boss through 2014. But disclosing his retirement date soon might give him an extra chance to bask in the glow of the strong first-quarter earnings Ford is expected to report on Friday.

Spokeswoman Susan Krusel says the company won’t comment on the speculation about an imminent statement about Fields. Ford has nothing new to say about its internal succession plans, she adds. “If anything were to change, we’d let everybody know.”

Ford’s board of directors next meets on May 8 in Wilmington, Del., just before the company’s annual meeting.

Mulally, who joined the carmaker as CEO in September 2006, is widely credited for turning around the struggling carmaker. Unlike rivals General Motors and Chrysler, Ford avoided bankruptcy in 2009. Bloomberg says Mulally has lined up an unspecified post-retirement position involving corporate governance or business policy.

Before taking the COO job, Fields had been president of Ford’s North American operations since October 2005. The 25-year Ford veteran previously held a string of operating jobs, which included running the company’s European unit and affiliate Mazda.

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Ford App Developer Conference to Drive Connectivity Innovation, Improve Developer Kit Access


Las Vegas – Ford Motor Co. is hosting an industry-first developer conference this June focused on bringing innovative mobile apps into the car through Ford SYNC AppLink. The Ford Developer Conference will be held in conjunction with the annual Further with Ford trend conference that takes place in Dearborn, Mich.

“More than ever, consumers are getting organized, entertained and informed through their Internet-connected smartphones and tablets,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president, global marketing, sales and service and Lincoln. “Drivers expect to be able to take advantage of that capability in the car, and Ford SYNC AppLink is the industry-leading platform for accessing apps while keeping eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”

Ford SYNC AppLink is already on the road in more than 1.5 million vehicles in North America, and will launch globally in Europe and Asia later this year. Last week, Ford announced 3.4 million more SYNC-equipped vehicles currently on the road will qualify for a downloadable upgrade to add AppLink capability later this year, making it the industry’s leading automotive app platform due to its widespread availability and global growth potential.

At the 2013 International CES, Ford announced public availability of the application programming interfaces (APIs) for SYNC AppLink, which has enabled any developer to integrate an app with Ford vehicles. Shortly afterward, Ford contributed the SYNC AppLink code to the open-source GENIVI SmartDeviceLink project, enabling the platform to become an industry standard that can be used freely by any manufacturer or supplier.

“Ford is committed to helping developers grow the in-vehicle mobile app ecosystem,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, global product development. “Driving toward an industry standard and taking steps that give developers direct access to the tools and technical experts to be successful are just the latest examples of our commitment to lead in development of the truly connected car.”

App developers will be able to attend sessions led by Ford Developer Program leaders, current AppLink partners and guest speakers to gain insight into such topics as:

  • Development and validation of AppLink apps
  • Best uses for AppLink application programming interfaces
  • Accessing vehicle data to create compelling new app features
  • Global AppLink opportunities
  • Contests and hacking challenges

Ford AppLink engineers and business development staff will be on hand throughout the conference collecting feedback on the system, as well as considering potential avenues for development of the platform going forward. “We see our support as a virtuous circle with an open platform that developers can build on to expand the ecosystem – thus encouraging a common platform and benefiting all drivers,” added Nair.

Prior to the conference, Ford is encouraging the developer community to further innovate through a Developer Tools Giveaway. Ford will award SYNC Technology Development Kits for the app ideas that best exhibit use of the enhanced AppLink functionality and new APIs that were recently released to developers.

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Compliance, Technology to Headline Vehicle Finance Conference


Washington — Thought leaders from across the vehicle finance industry will share their expertise at the American Financial Services Association (AFSA)’s 18th Annual Vehicle Finance Conference and Exposition, scheduled for Jan. 22-24, 2014, at the Sheraton in New Orleans. This year’s theme is “Navigating the New Normal.”

The conference will kick off with a macro-level examination of industry trends by John Gray, president, of Experian Automotive, Michael Buckingham, senior director of automotive finance for J.D. Power & Associates and Sarah Watt House, economist for Wells Fargo Securities LLC. Experts from research, strategy and vehicle finance firms will also delve into technology innovations, how to connect with younger generations, relationship management and risk management.

Bob Lutz, retired vice chairman of General Motors, will be at the conference to share key lessons he learned over his 47-year career. He will also identify best practices during his keynote address.

The conference will feature Patrice Ficklin, assistant director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s Office of Fair Lending. She will discuss the bureau’s approach to regulation and compliance based on the fair lending bulletin it issued in March 2013.

The conference will also feature a candid panel discussion among vehicle finance CEOs. Feature participants will include Daniel Berce, president and CEO of GM Financial, Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of Chase Auto Finance and Mike Groff, president and CEO of Toyota Financial Services. In addition, four leaders from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) will share the dealer perspective in the “Top Issues for Dealers in 2014” session.

The conference will close with a look forward from Sheryl Connelly, Global Consumer Trends and Futuring Manager for Ford Motor Co. She will discuss probable shifts in consumer values, attitudes and behaviors.

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Ford Expects Outstanding 2013 and Provides 2014 Outlook


Dearborn, Mich. – Ford Motor Co. announced that 2013 is expected to be one of the best years in its history, and projects 2014 to be another solid year for the company with 23 global product launches and continued investments around the world as the next step in its One Ford plan for profitable growth.

“We are celebrating what we expect to be an outstanding 2013, one that is likely to be among the best in our history,” said Bob Shanks, Ford executive vice president and chief financial officer. “Once the year is finished, we expect it will show that we grew the business, delivered strong financial results, progressed the restructuring of our operations in Europe and Australia, strengthened our balance sheet and provided attractive returns to our investors.”

2013 full-year automotive revenue is projected to grow about 10 percent, with market share increases in all regions other than Europe, where Ford expects higher retail share of the retail passenger car industry, as well as improved share of the commercial vehicle market. In Asia Pacific Africa and China, the company expects record market shares.

Ford is making good progress in implementing its Europe transformation plan, and also announced earlier in the year a plan to restructure operations in Australia.

The company continued to strengthen its automotive balance sheet. It estimates that it nearly cut in half the underfunded status of its global pension plans compared with the end of 2012. Ford also shared a comprehensive capital strategy with investors, one that is targeted to deliver high levels of shareholder value. Early in the year, Ford doubled its dividend and also implemented an anti-dilutive share repurchase program to offset compensation-related issuances. Based on performance and an improving balance sheet, the company now is rated investment grade by four of the major rating agencies.

Ford now projects that total company full-year pre-tax profit, excluding special items, to be about $8.5 billion, better than 2012 and in line with its most recent outlook. The company also is reconfirming its outlook that automotive operating margin will be higher than a year ago, and that automotive operating-related cash flow will be substantially higher than 2012, potentially a record.

Ford expects North America full-year 2013 pre-tax profit to be the highest in more than a decade, with an operating margin of 9.5 percent to 10 percent; this compares to prior guidance of about 10 percent. The difference reflects mainly higher warranty expense of $250 million to $300 million associated primarily with the Escape 1.6 liter recall announced last month.

In South America, the company now expects results to be about break-even, as recent government actions in Venezuela have affected adversely the business and overall results in the region. This compares to prior guidance of about break-even to profitable results for 2013.

The 2013 outlook for all other automotive business units, automotive net interest expense and Ford Credit is unchanged from prior guidance.

Finally, the company expects its full year operating effective tax rate to be about 27 percent. This compares to prior guidance of less than 30 percent.

2014 is expected to be another solid year for Ford and a critical building block in the One Ford Plan as Ford moves forward in building stronger global brands, a growing business based on outstanding products and a better balanced business in terms of source of sales and profitability. This is supported by a strengthening balance sheet that will continue to enable the company to reward shareholders with attractive returns.

In 2014, Ford will embark on its most aggressive product launch schedule in its history. The company will launch 23 all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles around the world — more than double the 11 global vehicle launches in 2013.

“This is our most ambitious launch plan ever, as we continue to implement our One Ford plan,” said Shanks. “In 2014, we are investing across the world to support next year’s launches, but also to drive profitable growth beyond 2014 as we serve more customers in more markets and in more segments.”

Overall, 2014 represents the next step in delivering profitable growth for all, with total company pre-tax profit, excluding special items, projected at $7 billion to $8 billion.

Beyond 2014, Ford generally remains on track to achieve its mid-decade outlook, but its targeted global automotive operating margin of 8 percent to 9 percent is at risk. This is due to the severe European downturn and conditions in South America, especially in Venezuela, that were not anticipated at the time the guidance was provided in mid-2011. The company expects its results over the mid-decade period to be strong and improving.

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FordDirect Launches Chat Services with LiveConnect to Increase Dealer Sales Leads


Dearborn, Mich. — FordDirect introduced LiveConnect Communication Service, an enhancement to its product offerings that enables dealers to better engage with consumers in real time through their Web sites. The new service offers a customizable, dealer-managed chat solution, with integrated software that automatically travels through the customer journey and prompts dealers to follow up.

As auto shoppers demand more instantaneous information, they have become increasingly interested in contacting dealers through live chat. Given these trends, dealers should prioritize chat leads to benefit from high conversion rates and increased customer satisfaction. An independent study by R.L. Polk shows that 30 percent of Internet shoppers who engage in chat on a dealership’s site purchase a vehicle within 60 days.

“With its high conversion rates, chat presents an ideal platform through which dealers can capture valuable sales leads,” said Valerie Fuller, chief operating officer for FordDirect. “Because consumers today are demanding instant access to information, chat services enable dealers to connect with customers on their own terms, while building loyalty and improving overall satisfaction.”

FordDirect also offers a Fully Managed Chat Service that provides around-the-clock responses to customer chats. This concierge service enhances customer satisfaction and helps drive new leads to the dealership.

Through a pilot program, FordDirect discovered that chat increases online customer engagement, provides dealerships with more opportunities to foster customer loyalty, and that chat customers are more likely to make a purchase than many other lead sources. The pilot results showed that the Fully Managed chat sites received more than twice as many chats and attained more than double the chat conversion of the LiveConnect (dealer-managed) chat sites.

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Detroit Three All Gain U.S. Market Share in Q1


Via Bloomberg News

Detroit – For the first time in two decades, General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) and Chrysler Group LLC pulled off a sweep in the first three months of a year, with all three gaining U.S. market share in 2013’s first quarter.

The momentum likely built in April versus Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Honda Motor Co., according to a survey of analysts by Bloomberg News. The average estimates of analysts are that the U.S. carmakers will post bigger sales gains than Toyota and Honda for this month.
“The renaissance in Detroit is real,” Mike Jackson, chief executive officer of AutoNation Inc. (AN), the biggest U.S. auto dealership group, said this month in a telephone interview. “They have fantastic new products, and they’re in a very good position to compete.”

Shoddy cars that U.S. automakers offered for three decades cost the loyalty of the 75 million-member baby boom generation. That’s changing thanks to across-the-board improvement in quality that has closed the gap on once-dominant Toyota, said George Magliano, senior principal economist for IHS Automotive.

“From now on, the window has been opened to everybody,” Magliano, who is based in New York, said by telephone. “The baby boomers used to walk in like zombies and buy the Toyota. They don’t do that anymore. They can buy a Korean car, they can buy a Volkswagen, and they certainly can buy a Detroit car.”

Rising Demand
U.S. light-vehicle sales probably climbed 11 percent in April to 1.31 million, the average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, may have risen to 15.2 million, the average of 17 estimates, from 14.1 million a year earlier. That would keep the market on pace for its best year since 2007.

Ford, GM and Chrysler gained 0.7, 0.5 and 0.2 percentage points of market share during the first quarter, the first time all three have gained share in that period of a year since 1993, the height of the sport-utility vehicle boom, according to Automotive News Data Center, which conducted the analysis at the request of Bloomberg News.

The three Detroit automakers now control 45.6 of the U.S. market through March, up from a first-quarter low of 43.8 percent in 2009, according to the data center. In the first three months of 1993, during then-President Bill Clinton’s first term, they shared 74.3 percent of the market, according to Automotive News.

Painful Restructurings
U.S. automakers’ strides have been building in the past half decade after a painful downturn spurred restructurings that spared only Ford from bankruptcy. The three companies rid themselves of uncompetitive cost structures and plowed investments into cars that could hang with Japan’s giants.

Millions of recalls by Toyota in 2009 and 2010, Japan’s tsunami the next year and shaky rollouts of new product such as Honda’s Civic in 2011 opened the door for U.S. consumers to give Detroit another shot.

Ford, which made more money than it ever has in North America during the first quarter, probably led the three U.S. automakers with a 17 percent increase in U.S. sales this month, the average of 11 estimates. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company’s $2.4 billion pretax profit in its home region in the first three months of the year was powered by its industry- leading F-Series trucks and new Fusion sedan and Escape utility.

Widespread Gains
“All you have to do is look at the earnings numbers from Ford to see that they’re doing well,” said Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, an auto consulting firm in West Bloomfield, Michigan. “F-Series drives its profits, but they also can’t make enough of the Fusion and the Escape.”

The redesigned Lincoln MKZ sedan, which Ford is counting on to revive its luxury line, will set a monthly sales record and drive an increase of at least 10 percent for the brand, Jim Farley, executive vice president of Ford global marketing and sales and Lincoln, said today on a conference call.

The gains being made by U.S. automakers are widespread. Ford’s Fusion, which ranked outside the ten best-selling models last year, has jumped to No. 6 this year through March. The 38 percent sales increase posted by Detroit-based GM’s Cadillac was the largest of any brand in the industry during that span, and Chrysler’s passenger car deliveries surged almost one third.

Chrysler, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, probably extended its streak of year-over-year U.S. sales gains to 37 months by posting a 10 percent rise in April deliveries.

Chrysler Profit
Chrysler said yesterday that first quarter net income dropped 65 percent while reaffiriming its full-year forecast. CEO Sergio Marchionne said on a Jan. 30 earnings call that shipments in the quarter would be hurt by introductions of the Jeep Compass and the Ram Heavy Duty pickup as well as preparation for the new Jeep Cherokee, which caused production of the predecessor Liberty to end last year.
GM sales also may have increased 10 percent, the averages of 11 estimates.

Holding onto their market share gains won’t be easy. Concerns are building about Japanese automakers answering Detroit’s rebound by using the weakening yen to their advantage, either by cutting prices or putting more content into their cars without charging more for it.

The yen has weakened about 18 percent versus the U.S. dollar since Oct. 31, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe advocated for its decline to aid his country’s economy. Morgan Stanley has estimated the currency boost will give Japanese automakers an advantage of about $1,500 per car, while U.S. carmakers have put the figure at $5,700 per vehicle.

Watching Yen
“We’re going to have to watch very closely what happens competitively as the Japanese competitors were able to benefit from the weak yen,” Bob Shanks, Ford’s chief financial officer, said last week during a conference call. “We are starting around the world, not just in North America, very selectively and very early, to see some signs. They’re taking advantage.”

So far this year, sizable U.S. sales increases have eluded most of the Japanese automakers even with the yen’s drop. Toyota, which is based in Toyota City, added 0.3 percentage points of U.S. market share through March, while Tokyo-based Honda’s share was little changed and Nissan lost 0.7 points, according to Autodata Corp.

Honda and Toyota sales may have risen 7.3 percent and 3.1 percent in April, respectively, the average estimate of eight analysts. Nissan probably will post the industry’s biggest increase, with a 26 percent surge, the average of eight estimates.

Camry’s Competition
Toyota’s plan is for its Camry sedan to remain the top- selling U.S. car for a 12th consecutive year, amid tougher competition from Ford’s Fusion and Honda’s Accord, U.S. Group Vice President Bill Fay said in an April 26 telephone interview. Camry deliveries slipped 4.3 percent in the first quarter.

“People see the new Fusion and like it and the Accord is doing well,” Fay said. “Our goal, in spite of better competition, is for Camry to stay No. 1.”

Volkswagen AG (VOW), based in Wolfsburg, Germany, may post a 3.3 percent gain in combined sales for its Volkswagen and Audi brands in April, the average of four estimates.

There are signs that Seoul-based Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) and Kia Motors Corp. (000270) are losing some of the gains they made in the U.S. during the past two decades because of production constraints and the Korean won strengthening relative to the Japanese yen. The two affiliates, which report sales separately, lost 0.2 and 0.6 percentage points of market share through the first three months, according to Autodata.

Hyundai-Kia
Hyundai and Kia’s struggles may have endured in April. Combined sales for the two companies probably slipped 2.4 percent, the average of seven estimates. The two companies are constrained by a lack of local production capacity and the yen’s 16 percent drop against the South Korean won since the end of October.

“We may see the Japanese automakers get more aggressive in terms of marketing and in terms of packaging more content into their vehicles and not raising prices,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst for auto researcher Edmunds.com, said by telephone. “That’s the Koreans’ game. That’s how they gained a foothold — the value proposition. That’s not in their favor now.”

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