As Ford shares stall, Bill Ford’s frustration grows

With Ford Motor’s stock languishing at its lowest price in almost five years, the executive chairman of the automaker, Bill Ford, understands how shareholders feel.

“We’re as frustrated as you are by the stock price,” said Ford during the company’s annual meeting. “The Ford family wants the stock to go up. Our net worth is tied up in this company, of course we want it to go up.”

Bill Ford’s comments come amid reports the automaker’s board is scrutinizing the business plan of CEO Mark Fields.

While Fields guided the company to its second most profitable year ever in 2016, bringing in $10.4 billion in pretax profit, the company’s stock has slumped due to concerns about how much the automaker is spending on developing autonomous-drive and electric vehicles as well as mobility products.

“We continue to deliver solid results with our core automotive business by keeping one foot in today, while at the same time prudently expanding into new forms of mobility and placing one foot in tomorrow,” Fields said during the annual meeting.

The question is when will the company’s investments in the future pay off? The lack of a clear answer is one reason Ford’s stock hovers just above $11. It’s down 36 percent since Fields became CEO in July 2014.

The format of this year’s annual meeting was changed from the past. Shareholders weren’t able to attend in person. Instead, Fields, Bill Ford and other executives answered questions submitted electronically on a webcast.

One shareholder asked the company’s leaders, “What strategy is in place to compete with the fast-growing and ever-popular Tesla?”

Fields said the automaker is committed to developing electric vehicles, including an all-electric small SUV with a range of at least 300 miles when fully charged. That SUV is targeted to hit showrooms in 2020.

“We’re going through this transition,” said Fields. “We’re embracing it and I think you will see a lot more exciting news on this to come.”

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