Ford Shareholders Air Grievances to Management
(Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. shareholders aren’t ready to take a victory lap over the stock showing signs of life in the early stages of a years-long restructuring.
Executive Chairman Bill Ford fielded one pointed question after another Thursday from investors frustrated by falling market share, the speed at which the company is cutting costs and the long way the stock still has to go to recoup steep losses over the last few years.
“Our stock price kind of languished as a result of us slogging through some very necessary but difficult changes,” the great grandson of Henry Ford said during the company’s annual shareholder meeting. “Our goal is to continue to build the business, and our expectation and hope is that the stock price will respond accordingly.”
The tone of the queries suggest Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett still has work to do to win over investors with his plan for an $11 billion overhaul. In addition to trying to reverse a slide in profits, he’s preparing the 116-year-old automaker for a future of electric and self-driving cars. Ford shares jumped last month after the company posted better-than-expected earnings that were supported by slashed expenses, dismissals of salaried employees and fat profits from F-Series trucks.
With Ford ditching unprofitable sedans and investing in electric pickup and SUV upstart Rivian Automotive Inc., its shares have risen about 32% this year, following a 39% plunge in 2018. Still, they remain down since Hackett, the former CEO of office-furniture maker Steelcase Inc., took the wheel two years ago.
Ford lost market share in every region last year, and shareholders took pains Thursday to call out declines in China, the U.S. and Europe, in particular.
Hackett, 64, said management was “totally in tune with this” while also noting that it takes two to three years to overhaul the product portfolio.
“You’re going to start to see improvement in these markets quicker than maybe shareholders thought,” he said.
Ford shares dropped 2.1 percent to $10.12 as of 11:25 a.m. in New York as the broader market declined.
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