- Ford Motor (F) stock fell on earnings that looked good under the hood.
- To become a tech stock, Ford must go to war against itself.
- Dividend investors are still the biggest winners in F stock.
Ford Motor (NYSE:F) bulls tried to make it a tech stock last year. They got their wish in the worst possible way.
On the back of analyst recommendations, Ford rose like a tech stock in 2021, with a January high of over $25/share. Since then, it has fallen like a tech stock. It opened for trade April 29 at $14.50/share.
As a car stock, Ford is still a work in progress. Ford reported an operating profit of $1.34 billion for the first quarter, on revenue of $34.5 billion. This became a net loss of $3.1 billion, 78 cents per share, on the $4.85 billion loss it took on stock in Rivian (NASDAQ:RIVN), the electric car start-up it invested in alongside Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
Reasons to Believe in Ford
There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful about Ford’s future.
The first-quarter number beat earnings estimates handily, when the Rivian loss is taken out.
Ford’s reorganization is going according to plan. It plans to milk profits at Ford Blue, which is making gas-powered vehicles, and in Ford Pro, which will sell directly to commercial accounts. It plans to invest heavily in Ford Model e, its electric car unit. Model e is being run by Doug Field, whose previous job was at Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), but who has worked at Ford and Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA).
Ford has already sold out 2022 production of its electric Ford Lightning pick-up and the electric Ford Mustang Mach-E. There’s even good news for car buyers, as total car inventory rose sharply in March.
The best news may be the hybrid Ford Maverick. It’s built on a Ford Bronco chassis but gets 37 miles to the gallon, 42 miles in town with its electric motor. Its price starts at around $20,000 and it’s outselling the Toyota (NYSE:TM) Tundra. It, too, is sold out for 2022, and the company is taking orders on next year.
Why F Stock Dropped
Despite the good news, Ford stock still dropped 17% in April.
Bears did not like the loss on Rivian. A chip shortage cut first quarter production. The company has had to temporarily close the plant that makes the Mustang, due to a parts shortage. Management admitted results would have been better without the parts shortages. About 580 engineers were let go when the Lightning debuted. There are worries that the Maverick may not be as reliable as advertised.
The biggest problem is more basic, Ford’s dealer network, which is antiquated and probably unnecessary. When times are good, as they have been, the dealers take extra profit by selling above retail. That means Ford doesn’t get the full benefit of high demand, as Tesla does.
Fat dealer markups cost Ford money and hurt its reputation. Dealers also have political power, which was once used mainly to fight Tesla but is now deployed to maintain their advantages over manufacturers.
The Bottom Line on F Stock
Ford is still a car company, not a tech company.
Ford manufactures cars with a complex supply chain and sells them through dealers. Tesla, on the other hand, controls its supply chain and has cut out the middlemen.
The value of this difference is currently $850 billion. That’s the difference between the market capitalizations of Tesla and Ford.
Ford does deliver what Tesla refuses to, a dividend that currently yields 2.64%. But analysts still aren’t expecting great things. The latest price target at Barclays (NYSE:BCS) is $16/share, that’s barely 10% over where Ford is currently trading.
To become a tech stock like Tesla, Ford needs to do more than reorganize. It needs to go to war against itself.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held long positions in AAPL and AMZN. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.