Like a long dormant volcano that suddenly starts spewing lava, Ford Motor Co. is being scalded by a couple of below-the-surface problems that have erupted and potentially trimming the company’s fourth-quarter earnings by nearly $2 billion.
Ford, which expects to release a financial report for the fourth quarter of 2020 Feb. 4, revealed in a new filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission that its pension funds are underfunded, a chronic problem that rears its head on the company’s balance sheet from time to time and will result in a one-time “remeasurement” charge of $1.2 billion.
“We expect to record a pre-tax remeasurement loss on our four quarter 2020 results of approximately $1.5 billion our pension and OPEB plants. This includes a $350 million loss associated with pension plans in the United States, a $650 million loss associated with pension plans outside the United States and a $500 million loss with OPEB plans globally,” the Ford said in the filing.
The “remeasurement loss” or re-evaluation of the pension fund and other-post-employment benefits is driven by lower discount ratees compared with year-end 2019, which were only partially offset by asset return is excess of management assumptions, according to the filing.
The remeasurement loss is expected to reduce the company’s net income by about $1.2 billion but have no impact on earnings before interest and taxes or EBIT or adjusted earnings per share, Ford’s SEC filing said.
Ford also said the remeasurement loss will not have an impact on cash flow in 2020 and does not change the company’s expectations for pension contributions in 2021.
Ford disclosed the impact of the remeasurement gains and losses during 2020, Ford expects the underfunded status of the company’s pension and OPEB plans to stand at $6.7 billion each, compared to $6.8 billion and $6.6 billion respectively at the end of 2019.
The other issue addressed in the SEC filing has troubled the entire auto industry for years – the defective inflators used in airbags supplied by Takata.
Ford also said in the filing that it will have to pay more than $610 million to fix the airbags in more than 3 million vehicles built between 2006 and 2012 and sold in the U.S. and Canada.
The inflator in the Takata airbag could deteriorate and potentially explode and spew metal fragments or not go off at all in an accident. It is an issue has dogged the auto industry for years. The inflator has been blamed for 18 deaths in the U.S.
Nearly every carmaker has had to address the defect under pressure from trial lawyers and regulators. NHTSA estimates that more than 67 million cars have been recalled and automakers continue to maintain campaigns to find and repair defective airbags.
Ford has been tussling with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration since 2017 but last week its petition was denied, and the company was ordered to proceed with the repairs.
In the SEC filing Ford noted the “field service action” applies to the PSDI-5 design “desiccated” Takata inflators, which are different in design and performance from earlier recalled non-desiccated Takata inflators.