New F-150 pickup truck essential to carmaker’s future

Ford (F) wants to make one thing perfectly clear about the all-new F-150: it’s tough, damn tough.

The automaker revealed the hotly anticipated redesigned F-150 during a livestream Thursday night with an accompanying press release describing the truck as “tough” seven times. Indeed, the F-150 with its enlarged front grille (it has 12 grille options to choose from), larger diameter tires and ginormous infotainment system (12 inches) has all the outward cues of a truck ready to run roughshod over a job site or up the side of a mountain.

But there are some other clever upgrades to the F-150 that don’t necessarily quantify as tough, but rather very useful to shoppers being tempted by competing offerings by Dodge, Chevrolet and Toyota:

  • Optional interior work surface to help with signing documents or working on a laptop. The car or truck has turned into an out of home workspace during COVID-19, after all.

  • Seats that fold nearly flat.

  • Over-the-air technology updates.

Ford’s tough new truck will be available this fall. It will be produced at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan and Kansas City, Missouri plants.

The importance of the F-150 to Ford’s financials isn’t lost on new COO Jim Farley.

“It’s fundamental,” said Farley, the odds on favorite to take over for current Ford CEO Jim Hackett, referring to the importance of the new F-150 to Ford’s financials.

The Ford F-150 has been America’s best-selling pickup truck for 43 straight years. It represented nearly 40% of the autos Ford sold in 2019, and is considered to be a high margin cash cow for the company that helps fund other investments across the company.

Up until this point of celebration for Ford, the past year has been mostly a challenge to say the very least for the automaker.

The new F-150 is expected to be a major profit driver for Ford.

The company stunned Wall Street back in late April by reporting a loss of $2 billion as the COVID-19 pandemic halted production and kept people off dealer lots. Ford also continued to feel a hit from a botched launch of its new Explorer in late 2019 that ultimately led to veteran auto strategist Farley taking over as COO and Joe Hinrichs, long-time Ford executive, retiring.

As a result of these factors, Ford has showed Wall Street little progress this year on Hackett’s ongoing $11 billion restructuring plan designed to boost profit margins. To shore up its finances, given the macroeconomic uncertainty, Ford issued $8 billion worth of junk bonds this spring.

Ford’s stock has shed about 40% over the last year, per Yahoo Finance Premium data. GM’s stock has dropped 32% during that same span, Toyota has gained 2.3% and Fiat Chrysler has lost 29%.

“The F-150 is the most important vehicle Ford makes,” Autoblog editor-in-chief Greg Migliore told Yahoo Finance. Autoblog is a Yahoo Finance sister publication, also owned by Verizon Media.

Added Migliore, “It’s been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. since the late 1970s, so Ford is playing from a position of strength as it evolves its signature model.”

So suffice it to say, Ford needs the tough new F-150 and the upcoming debuts of the Bronco and Mustang Mach-E to be sales successes. If not, more tough quarters could lay ahead.

Farley did offer some hope, however.

“June has been a real turnaround month for us,” Farley added.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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