Ford CFO: Company will look different, but it will keep dominating in pickups

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
The F-Series is the best-selling pickup line in North America.

Ford's outgoing Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks used his final presentation to Goldman Sachs at the 2019 Industrials Conference in New York to assure investors the automaker is making big changes — and that it intends to dominate the U.S. pickup truck market.

"That is a segment that we are not taking our foot off the pedal whatsoever," Shanks told the moderator of Wednesday morning's fireside chat. Tim Stone, who'll take over as CFO June 1, was also present. "We're in an extremely, extremely strong position relative to the products themselves. We feel comfortable in terms of our competitive position (in pickups)..."

Ford Motor Co. Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks

Ford plans to debut an all-new F-150 pickup in 2020. The automaker has had bragging rights for decades because of that vehicle. The F-Series is the best-selling pickup line in North America — General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV meantime claim the titles for selling the second- and third-most full-size pickups, respectively.

GM does sell more total pickups than both its crosstown rivals when tallying up both Chevrolet and GMC brands and the midsize, full-size and heavy-duty offerings.

Shanks assured investors that Ford wouldn't cede the heavy duty market to FCA or GM, both of which plan to launch new models in that space later this year when Ford's updated Super Duty pickup hits dealer lots.

"This isn't the first time we've been to this rodeo," Shanks said. "I think we know how to manage that...we're ready to respond and to protect the franchise."

Ford's product cadence over the next few years will be flush with new trucks and SUVs as the automaker moves away from the sedan and small car segment. That, in part, contributed to Bank of American Merrill Lynch research analyst John Murphy just five days ago upgrading Ford from a neutral rating to a buy rating for the first time in three years.

"Yes, this is an extremely Truck and CUV heavy product cadence by design," Murphy wrote in a note to investors. "If market mix holds, this product pipeline should mean that Ford will be able to sustain market share, mix, and price, although there remains risk that industry volumes do not hold in."

Murphy also credited Ford for its $11 billion global redesign, which he noted is becoming more clear and comprehensive.

Shanks said Wednesday that the company is not restructuring. Ford is doing more than cutting jobs and closing plants around the world, he said. The work done under CEO Jim Hackett seeks to recreate the century-old automaker.

"The company is doing things that it probably should have done many, many years ago," Shanks said. "We're making very, very clear choices, and this is going to look very different going forward...It's going to be a different company. It's going to be a strong company."

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau