Ford (Minus) - Auto Trends Looking Rough

Ford has been operating under its “Ford+” program for a couple of years in an attempt to reorient the company to

  • milk profits from remaining ICE vehicles to feed EV development
  • cleanly separate costs between ICE, EV and fleet vehicles
  • organize the books so at least ONE division can provide the illusion of growth

They may have called it Ford+ but Ford (Minus) might be more appropriate. The company announced roughly 1000 additional layoffs of engineering personnel across all THREE segments in the US and Canada. These are in addition to the roughly 3000 offered retirement incentives in 2022 and another 3000 across Europe expected later.

A few minutes spent reading and watching auto / economics commentary on the web reflects a common set of icebergs looming in the water for all automakers but posing particular threats to Ford:

  • banks have stopped loaning amounts above MSRP – no false subsidy for insane dealer markups
  • many banks have stopped lending on “exotic” vehicles entirely - the value drops too precipitously leading them holding the bag if the buyer defaults
  • net new car sales have increased so far in 2023 and are expected to be up for the year but something like 43% of those sales are FLEET sales, not direct-to-consumer sales – those units tend to be more barebones models with smaller profit margins
  • we have apparently reached “peak truck” because Ford and RAM have gobs of inventory of prices in the $60-90k range – whodathunk that actual “working people” cannot afford a $90,000 luxury truck?
  • recent interest rate hikes have further removed any upward pressure on prices – people cannot afford 6-9% interest rates on $50,000 car loans, especially when banks will no longer lend above 80% of MSRP – most American’s don’t have 20% of the purchase on hand as a down payment
  • the number of “no-sales” at wholesale auctions of new cars is high and growing every week, reflecting that dealers are unwilling to recognize losses on vehicles that have been on their lot for HUNDREDS of days for fear of starting a price collapse

In the various commentaries I’ve seen, Toyota seems to see strong demand but they still seem to be planning their builds to provide ZERO inventory slack to dealers. This is frustrating dealers and customers alike. Not clear if Toyota is facing capacity issues as they switch from older platforms to ones launched in the last year (Tundra, Tacoma, Grand Highlander…) while also re-tooling for more EV and hybrid designs or if Toyota has decided to operate with thinner dealer inventory to avoid getting stuck with a glut as tastes change.

Ford seems to be facing the worst trends from the overall industry patterns and its specific strategic decisions. They’ve surrendered the entire car market to competitors. The truck market is overpriced in general and Ford dealers seem to have been the most egregious at inflating prices with bogus market adjustments and unavoidable “option packages.” Luxury SUV sales are being crippled by the astronomical prices and high interest rates and Ford sees no benefit from the jump in fleet sales to rental car companies since they abandoned passenger cars.

In general, the rise in interest rates may produce significant short term pain for consumers and automakers alike but it might be the medicine actually needed to make both makers and dealers capitulate on the losing strategy they fell upon after the covid lockup. Simply focusing on fewer and fewer vehicles with higher and higher price tags will not assure survival. It will hasten their demise.



There have been questions raised on this board about Ford’s business plan for some time. Farley’s plan is continuously increasing ATP and GP, and, if they lose marginal sales to people who can’t pay the price, he doesn’t care. Meanwhile, he wants to embrace a “subscription” model, so that, after people have koffed up 60 large for one of his oversized, overpriced, vehicles, he can continue to bleed them with fees so that the features they paid for will actually work.

The media here has not said exactly where the engineering layoffs are. One would think that, with the development of EV platforms, the demand for engineers would be there (an EV still requires suspension, body structure, and the in-dash video games the industry has fallen in love with). He could be following the plan that was implicit in Jim Hackett’s screeds: Ford brand product, ie, let someone else to the designing, and maybe building, then paste a blue oval on it, and jack the price up so Ford makes a profit, for doing nothing.


…SOFTWARE… power management…

Hey, when should we short?

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I’ll tell you from personal / professional experience that the engineering folks that I was working with (as an SAP software services vendor) were pretty arrogant but not that smart… Didn’t make for a winning model from my perspective.

I considered most of the time I spent with Ford SAP folks as wasted time and energy for our business.

They were too set in their ways? unaccepting of change? arrogant? cheap? who knows…Maybe all of the above.



That attitude is enabled/encouraged by top management, like Farley thinking he can charge premium brand prices, for Fords. The same attitude has infected VW top management, who is also saying they are “taking the brand up-market”, and they don’t care if they lose marginal customers to the price increases. I have commented before, how RS management insisted it’s pricing, some 40% higher than the competition, was worth it. “We do people a favor when we sell them our stuff”, Bernie Appel insisted.


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The exact opposite, go long TSLA… Cybertrucks are coming!

All legacy automakers are in a bind to some degree or other. EVs are the clergy of the Climate Change religion which is being subsidised with either new printed or taxpayer money. The Climate Change religion wants to kill ICE cars. In that macro environment Tesla seems to be the only car maker with little or no debt powered by strong positive cash flow which allows Tesla to building capacity at a frantic pace. Tesla is top of the chart by many measures, brand loyalty, safety, cost of operation, sales volume, and now even dictating charging standards.

That does not mean that there are no good competing products like the Ford F-150 Lightning but legacy automakers have a lot of expensive problems to solve. A wave of bankruptcies is coming. The industry needs to be cut down to a handful of producers. This is not a model change but a paradigm shift fueled by powerful interests, the Climate Change Churches.

The Captain


Strange business model:

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