Ford blows away earnings expectations as consumers buy up trucks during pandemic

Key Points
  • Ford blew away Wall Street expectations as well as the company's forecast earnings for the third quarter.
  • The top and bottom beats were on stronger-than-expected demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this article

Ford beats the top and bottom line in Q3
Ford beats the top and bottom line in Q3

Ford Motor blew away Wall Street expectations as well as the company's forecast earnings for the third quarter on stronger-than-expected demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here's how Ford performed versus what Wall Street expected, based on average analysts' estimates compiled by Refinitiv.

  • Adjusted EPS: 65 cents vs 19 cents expected
  • Automotive revenue: $34.71 billion vs $33.51 billion expected

Ford's stock jumped more than 7% during after-hours trading before leveling off at about $8.05 a share, up 4.5%. The stock closed Wednesday at $7.70, down 2.8%.

In his first quarterly earnings call with analysts as CEO, Jim Farley promised Wall Street greater transparency — something his predecessor, Jim Hackett, was criticized for not doing. Farley succeeded Hackett effective Oct. 1.

"My commitment to each of you is transparency, including purposeful, measurable key performance indicators so you can objectively track our progress," he told analysts. Farley said additional information, including financial targets, will be discussed in the spring.

Ford more than doubled its adjusted pretax earnings from a year earlier to $3.6 billion in the third quarter. The company's net profit was $2.34 billion during the third quarter, up from roughly $423 million a year earlier. Its total revenue also increased by about $500 million to $37.5 billion from the third quarter of 2019.

"We executed very well this quarter," Ford CFO John Lawler said Wednesday during a media briefing. "We saw much higher demand than what we expected."

Ford's profits in the third quarter were led by its operations in North America, which made $3.18 billion on revenue of $25.3 billion. That included stronger-than-expected demand and a rich mix for popular Ford trucks and SUVs as well as commercial vehicles.

Incoming Ford CEO Jim Farley (left) and Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. pose with a 2021 F-150 during an event Sept. 17, 2020 at the company's Michigan plant that produces the pickup.
Michael Wayland | CNBC

Due to costs related to new or redesigned vehicle launches toward the end of the year, the company forecast adjusted earnings for the fourth quarter to be between break even and a $500 million loss. That would keep the company in the black for the year.

Ford expects a 100,000 reduction in wholesale shipments of its profitable F-150 pickups in the fourth quarter as the company steadily ramps up production of a redesigned version of the truck, Lawler said.

Former Ford CFO Tim Stone, who left the company earlier this month, told investors in July that the automaker expected earnings on an adjusted pretax basis of between $500 million and $1.5 billion for the third quarter. That would have been down from $1.8 billion in the third quarter of 2019.

Ford ended the third quarter with cash of nearly $30 billion and total liquidity of more than $45 billion after fully repaying $15 billion in revolving credit drawn down in the first quarter in the early days of the pandemic.

Lawler declined to comment on when the company expects to reinstate its prized dividend, which it suspended in March due to the pandemic.

Ford's shares remain down by 17% so far this year, despite a 15% increase in the stock price in October.