Ford has not done enough to be 'fit' says CEO Jim Hackett

Key Points
  • Ford executives say the company is not "fit" enough, and has not been as prepared as its competitors for rising commodity prices.
  • Executive have identified areas where the company can save, but did not disclose details.
Ford Motor Company President and CEO Jim Hackett speaks during a keynote address during CES 2018 in Las Vegas on January 9, 2018.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Ford still has work to do to be a truly "fit" company, said CEO Jim Hackett on Wednesday.

The second-largest automaker said it is not yet fit enough to offset headwinds from higher commodity prices, which the company expects to continue to affect finances in 2018.

"Ford is a strong company," Hackett said on a conference call Wednesday, after the company released earnings for the fourth quarter and full year of 2017. "I am proud of it, but we have not done enough to be fit today."

In particular, it is less fit than its peers, who have said they are not feeling the same pressure from commodity prices.

Higher commodities and unfavorable foreign exchange rates have hindered Ford in recent quarters. The company is attempting a turnaround under Hackett, who was appointed CEO in early 2017.

Ford spends about $10 billion in commodities annually, and about two-thirds of that go to steel and aluminum. The company benefited from falling prices in 2015 and 2016. But the market began to turn in late 2016 and prices are expected to continue their climb through 2018.

Ford uses a larger amount of aluminum than competitors in some of its vehicles, particularly in its trucks and SUVs. But aluminum is not the primary problem, said CFO Bob Shanks on Wednesday's conference call. Steel is the real issue, he said.

Ford expects revenues in 2018 to be flat or modestly higher over 2017, and is expecting flat to lower profits from its automotive business. It is also expecting lower profits from its Ford Credit business.

At the same time, Ford plans to spend about $7.5 billion in capital in 2018. The company is plowing profits into investments in new mobility initiatives, such as developing self-driving cars. Ford is battling a perception that it is behind rivals and tech firms on mobility technologies.

Ford has a plan to improve fitness, Hackett said, but he did not disclose many details on what action the firm plans to take, saying he wanted to discuss plans within the company first.