Will Ford Profit in 2010?

Automaker looks to fuel efficiency, black consumers for the new year

segments to smaller, less profitable crossover utility vehicles (CUVs). According to Standard & Poor’s, this shift has led to a steady erosion of Ford’s U.S. market share that the research firm says is likely to continue to hurt market share until the company can introduce more of its own CUVs.

Earl Lucas, designer of Ford Taurus SHO

On the green front, Ford has committed to produce half a million Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles annually using EcoBoost Technology in North America over the next five years. EcoBoost uses gasoline turbocharged direct-injection technology—which takes waste energy from the exhaust gas to drive the turbine. This gives the car up to 20% better fuel economy and 15% fewer carbon dioxide emissions versus larger displacement engines. “I think we are getting a lot of credit for not only having fantastic vehicles that people want to buy that are really fuel efficient, but from an environment standpoint [we] are also doing it in a more environmentally conscious way,” says John Viera, director of sustainable business strategies at Ford.

Although Ford finished 2009 profitably, it wasn’t without its share of sacrifices over the past few years. In December 2005, Ford sold its Hertz Corp. unit for about $15 billion. In June 2008, it sold Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors for $2.3 billion and reduced its stake in Mazda from 33% to 13.8%. In December 2009, Ford announced plans to close the sale of its Volvo unit to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. Ltd. in the 2010 second quarter.

Even still, Bland predicts that Ford will increase its market share both overall and specifically in the African American segment. For one, Ford’s Lincoln brand was ranked No. 2 for African American brand share in 2009, according to statistics from R.L. Polk.

And although the Ford brand ranked No. 13 for African American brand share, the Ford Motor Corp. ranks No. 1 for African American loyalty, based on R.L. Polk’s evaluation of return customers. Also, of the top 12 makes and models for African Americans, the Ford Fusion is the only vehicle to sell more units in the model year of 2009 than they did in 2008. “The market overall was down in 2009 and somehow they found a way to sell more units to the African American community that year than the previous year,” says Bland. “That is a strong indicator that there is a high affinity for the Fusion in the African American community.”

In terms of the general market, McGrath says that the “Toyota debacle” involving the competitor’s recall of faulty vehicles, will definitely open up more market share for domestic manufacturers, giving Ford a chance to increase market share. “There is a lot of positive momentum and consumer buzz about Ford,” says Bland, who based his forecast on the 2010 North American International Auto Show where Ford won quite a few awards. “That leads me to believe they are primed to do some really good things in 2010.”

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