Ford Annual Report shows continued global manufacturing drive

US car maker Ford Motor Vehicle Company has released its annual report for the year 2014.

Within the Ford Annual Report, the company detailed its continuing success and profits, indicating the American auto manufacturing sector is far from dead.

Despite falling on hard times during the Global Financial Crisis, 2014 was the company’s fifth straight year of pre-tax profits, with a total of $6.3bn being generated in the 12 month period.

Primarily, the company’s success was built around the domestic US market, which continued to outperform most others globally. There, Ford was the second-largest car manufacturer after GM, and sold both the most popular vehicle as well as light truck.

Overseas, the company made a strong push into Asian markets, especially China.

There the company reported that it had seen record sales and profits, proving that these markets are still critical expansion targets despite the recent slowdown of GDP growth. In addition, Ford has opened the first outlet for its luxury ‘Lincoln’ brand in China, hoping to establish another successful vehicle line.

Meanwhile in Europe, the company has managed to hold onto, and increase its market share year-on-year, with Ford now having its highest market share on the continent since 2011. Growth in the United Kingdom is projected to remain in the 2.5% to 3% range.

This being said, the company reported that it faced difficulties in the South American market as well as Russia, likely due to the rapid devaluation of the Russian Rouble.

The new Ford GT will commence production in late 2016.
The new Ford GT will commence production in late 2016.

In addition, the report also referenced the implementation of its various ‘transformation plans’ in Europe and Australia. Ford closed two manufacturing facilities in the UK in 2013 and closed its assembly plant in Genk, Belgium at the end of 2014. Ford in Australia intends to cease local manufacturing in October 2016.

Separation-related costs (excluding pension costs) for the UK totalled $1.1bn while Ford’s current estimate of total separation-related costs for the Australian manufacturing facilities is approximately $160m, excluding approximately $20m of pension-related costs.

Despite this, 2014 was also a unique year for Ford as it released a total of 24 new vehicles – the most the company has ever brought to market in a 12 month period. The new Ford GT was not included in this list as it was launched in 2015 and won’t roll off the production line until 2016.

Start-up Mindset

Similar to many other auto manufacturers, Ford is looking to the digital world for inspiration for its future vehicle lines.

Leading this push is the Ford Smart Mobility plan, entailing research and integration of connectivity technology, vehicle autonomy and big data.

“We are pushing ourselves even harder, to think, to act, and even disrupt, like a start-up,” explained Ford CEO, Mark Fields in a message to shareholders.

As part of this new mindset, Ford has carried out 25 mobility experiments in 2014, on a diverse range of automotive issues, including traffic mapping and ride-sharing.

Ford hopes to integrate the lessons learned from these experiments into its next generation of vehicles.