Mad Money

Ford: The Best American Automaker?

No list of the top American manufacturers would be complete, or even serve as a credible list, without the new Ford Motor. Cramer has praised this company endlessly as “the greatest comeback story of a generation,” as Ford has gone from near failure to thriving success in just a few short years. At the center of that shift was CEO Alan Mulally.

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“Alan Mulally’s already turned this once-ailing car company into a leaner, meaner, actually profitably auto-making machine,” Cramer said Tuesday, “and he’s barely gotten started.”

Cramer likes the automaker's recently revealed five-year plan, which includes increasing worldwide sales by 50 percent by mid-decade. And the "Mad Money" host thinks Mulally will deliver.

Remember, rather than accept a government bailout, as Chrysler and General Motors did, Ford hunkered down and literally pulled itself up by its bootstraps. Mulally has already simplified Ford’s product development and manufacturing, and now he's taking it a step further. He plans to shrink the 27 major vehicle platforms Ford had in 2007 to 13 by 2014.

But what has Mulally done to take Ford this far? In addition to those manufacturing changes, two things.

First, a focus was put on making smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Ford is targeting its small vehicle sales to represent 55 percent of its total sales by 2020. The company is also targeting a 3 to 4 percent yearly improvement in fuel economy for its portfolio and plans to triple production capacity of its electrified vehicles in North America by 2013.

Now Ford’s beating the competition here in the States, making more money per car and selling more cars as the autos market continues to rev up. And overseas, the company is expanding production to keep up with the rising demand of the emerging-market middle classes in China and India.

The most important thing Mulally has done, though, as far as Cramer’s concerned, is clean up the balance sheet. And that's important, Cramer said, because it means Ford will be able to borrow money at lower interest rates all over the world. That, in turn, means Ford will make even more money per car.

“We care about this even though it’s not as sexy as the latest Ford Explorer,” Cramer said, “because cleaning up the balance sheet’s the key to unlocking the real higher earnings per share, and higher earnings, we’ve always said, are the key to a higher stock price.”

The bottom line, Cramer said, is that no one does it better than Ford.

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