(The story has been updated to revise the increase in pre-tax earnings.)
Ford Motor Co., riding high on North American demand for pickups and SUVs, saw pre-tax third-quarter profits more than double – but the maker nonetheless disappointed Wall Street by falling short of analysts’ expectations for even more.
Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford earned $2.7 billion before taxes, and 128% year-over-year increase. But net earnings were up an even more dramatic 129%, to $1.9 billion, or 48 cents per share compared with 27 cents during the third quarter of 2014.
“We’re on a really, really strong track,” declared Bob Shanks, Ford’s Chief Financial Officer.
Investors weren’t so sure. Excluding one-time charges, earnings came in at 45 cents a share, a penny less than Wall Street’s consensus forecast, and that sent Ford shares tumbling more than 3% in Tuesday pre-market trading.
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Ford saw revenues rise by 9% during the quarter, to $35.8 billion, ahead of the $35.5 billion consensus forecast. Overall vehicles sales were up 7%, to 1.6 million.
The primary factor was the U.S., were volume surged 16%, much of that driven by strong demand for SUVs, crossovers and pickups. The quarter appeared to bring vindication for Ford’s risky switch from steel to aluminum for its F-150 pickup.
Long the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., sales were sluggish earlier in the year, in part due to the slow ramp-up of production at the truck’s two American assembly plants. With those factories now at capacity, sales have been keeping pace with the older model.
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Including larger versions that have not yet converted to aluminum, sales of the various Ford full-sized F-Series pickups have reached a nine-year high. And, according to Shanks, the maker is making about $2,000 more per truck than it did a year ago, the average transaction price for an F-Series model now $42,000.
North America generated a whopping 66% of total Ford automotive revenues for the third quarter.
Ford also had good news from Europe, where it has been losing money for over a decade. While it remained in the red, operations there did report an increase in sales. Demand was down in South America, the Middle East and Asia, however, and South American and Mideast operations lost money during the quarter.
Ford did manage to deliver a small profit from China, where it is in the process of opening several new plants in a bid to double capacity. Despite the unexpected slide in Chinese car sales in recent months, Ford officials said they remained optimistic about their prospects there.
For the first nine months of the year, Ford delivered a North American profit margin of 9.9% and estimated the figure for the full year will be at the higher end of its previous forecast of between 8.5% and 9.5%.
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