For most of 2017, Ford just suffered through. Come the end of the year, the company warned investors things would not be pretty, and they certainly were not. The pre-eminent American auto manufacturer finished 2017 with low profit, higher costs, and a razor-thin margin.
And that was only the beginning of the bad news. The overall number of cars sold fell too, erasing most of the benefit realized because of higher than average car costs. Recalls hurt the company’s business too, with big ones coming through on several models even as Ford was sinking a lot of cash into the relaunch of the new Expedition and Navigator line of larger SUVs.
The only silver lining, if there is one in all this bad press, is that the bar for Ford was lowered after General Motors also said it would be posting disappointing numbers too and that 2018 would not be much better. Still, just because the competition is suffering doesn’t mean bad news becomes good news.
According to a report by CNN, Ford CEO Jim Hackett told investors he was not happy with the result and the company needed to do more and to do it better than they had been.
“Clearly I and my team are not satisfied with this level of performance… We simply have not done enough to be fit today…”
But, Hackett assured his audience, Ford was on the cusp some great things. Innovations planned in the short term include autonomous vehicles, which, Hackett said, could be paying dividends for the company as soon as next year.
So far, the market is proving dubious. After the initial announcement, shares dropped. Then they dropped again, even as Hackett tried to put a silver lining on the prospects. Of course, Hackett really needs the autonomous car project to take off and bear fruit, for several reasons.
The primary reason Hackett needs Ford’s self-driving car initiative to take off is that it was his baby. He was in charge of that area of business before he was called on to replace former CEO Mark Fields, who was pushed out as Ford continued to flounder last year. Now, both his former project and the company as a whole have to come out of this downturn and start posting positive results.
Overall, though, prospects are not exactly rosy. The American automotive manufacturing industry, as a whole, is suffering, with new car sales dropping nearly two percent last year alone.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.