Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) had a strong sales month domestically in March. However, it still lags it major competitors, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), and investors continue to worry about whether CEO James Hackett has a strategy to rescue Ford from worries about its long-term future.
Year to date, Ford’s shares are down 11.7%. GM’s are off 9.9%. Toyota’s are down 2.3%.
Ford’s domestic sales rose 3.5% in March to 243,021. Its sales for the first quarter are down 2.7% to 596,794. GM’s March sales were 15.7% higher in March to 296,138. For the first three months, its sales are higher by 3.8% to 715,264. Toyota’s domestic sales rose 3.5% in March to 222,782. For the first three months, sales are up 7.4% to 572,036
Hackett’s sales job has two parts. The first is whether the company can lower its reliance on its F-150 full-sized pickup, the top-selling vehicle in the United States for decades. Ford sold 214,191 of these in the first three months. That is 35% of all Ford domestic sales. Ford needs a more impressive presence in SUVs and crossovers to brace it against a drop in car sales, which is a problem for every major car company. Rumors are that Ford will kill its Taurus and Fiesta car nameplates.
In the luxury end of the market, Lincoln continues to be a failure in the United States. Lincoln sold 22,462 vehicles through the first three months of 2018. Mercedes sold 86,574. And BMW’s sales for the same period were 73,835.
The deeper issue is whether Ford has a chance to be a leader in electric cars and autonomous vehicles. Hackett’s plans have not caught the eyes of investors. Ford is seen as too far behind most of the industry for both categories. It not only faces massive plans from every other major car company but from smaller companies, led by Tesla.
In October, Hackett announced his sweeping view of the future. It involved more operational efficiency, which means cutting costs, and a way forward for the electric car and autonomous car futures. Investors were not impressed, and that has not changed.