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Ford is falling behind in the autonomous driving push, Piper Jaffray says in downgrading the automaker

  • Piper Jaffray downgrades Ford stock to neutral from overweight.
  • It also lowers its 12-month price target to $12, slightly above where the stock closed Monday.
A Ford F-150 truck goes through a quality control inspection after undergoing assembly at the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant.
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A Ford F-150 truck goes through a quality control inspection after undergoing assembly at the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant.

Ford was downgraded by Piper Jaffray on Tuesday because the automaker is not doing enough to keep up with the technological disruptions in the auto industry.

"We appreciate the focus on 'fitness,' as well as Ford's newfound willingness to cull less profitable platforms," analyst Alexander Potter said in a note to clients. "But with U.S. vehicle sales slowly eroding, we think investors are looking for more fundamental changes from Ford — and from automotive companies in general. Ford may yet capture its share of the $1T+ market for autonomous rides, but in our view, the company isn't a leader in this market — at least not yet."

Potter downgraded Ford to neutral from overweight and lowered his 12-month price target to $12 from $14. The stock closed at $11.18 on Monday and was slightly lower in premarket trading Tuesday.

"Ford's valuation still appears low — and the stock's 7% yield (including special dividend) — still offers downside protection — but relative to other stocks in our coverage, we are less convinced that Ford can find compelling revenue drivers to offset secular threats," Potter added.

Ford shares are off by 10 percent this year even after the automaker said in April it would limit its passenger car lineup to just two models in order to focus on its more profitable truck and SUV business.

"All of these initiatives should deliver improved margins and help offset sluggish SAAR growth — but will this be enough to make Ford stand out against automotive peers? Probably not in our view," the Piper note stated.