Ford again warns on EV results, withdraws 2023 forecast

By Paul Lienert and Nathan Gomes

DETROIT (Reuters) -Ford Motor on Thursday withdrew its full-year results forecast due to “uncertainty” over the pending ratification of its deal with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, and warned of continued pressure on electric vehicles, sending shares of the company down more than 4% after-hours.

The union and Ford on Wednesday reached a tentative agreement that included a 25% wage hike for 57,000 workers over 4-1/2 years, ending a strike at some of the automaker’s biggest factories.

Ford expects the new contract will add $850 to $900 in labor cost per-vehicle, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said in a briefing on Thursday.

The concessions made by the company are significant, said CFRA research analyst Garrett Nelson in an investor note on Thursday. “They will weigh on margins and affect its competitiveness relative to Tesla and other non-union automakers.”

Ford’s increasing concern about cooling EV demand follows a decision by rival General Motors earlier this week to postpone a $4 billion electric truck plant in Michigan.

Lawler reiterated that Ford will delay some of its planned multibillion-dollar investment in new EV and battery production capacity, citing “tremendous downward pressure” on prices.

Ford lost an estimated $36,000 on each of the 36,000 electric vehicles it delivered to dealers in the quarter – even more than its estimated $32,350 loss per EV in the second quarter.

During Ford’s second-quarter earnings briefing in July, Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley said the company would slow the ramp-up of money-losing EVs, shifting investment to Ford’s commercial vehicle unit and citing plans to quadruple sales of gas-electric hybrids over the next five years.

Like many of its competitors, Ford is “trying to find the balance between price, margin and EV demand,” Lawler said on Thursday. For consumers, Farley added, “affordability is an issue.”

GM also withdrew its 2023 results forecast earlier this week, and walked back its often-repeated expectation of building 400,000 EVs by mid-2024.

Ford’s adjusted third-quarter earnings per share of 39 cents missed the Wall Street average target of 45 cents, according to LSEG data.

Revenue excluding Ford Credit of $41.18 billion was slightly shy of Wall Street forecasts of $41.22 billion, according to LSEG data.

Ford said its EV unit posted a loss in earnings before interest and taxes of $1.3 billion, bringing its nine-month EBIT loss to $3.1 billion. The company had forecast a full-year pretax loss of $4.5 billion for the Ford Model e unit.

The automaker said its EV business was experiencing “sharply compressed” prices and profitability, and said customers were not willing to pay a premium for EVs over comparable combustion and hybrid models.

Ford’s third-quarter profit of $1.2 billion compared with a year-earlier loss of $827 million. Last year’s loss included a $2.7 billion noncash writedown on Ford’s investment in the now-shuttered Argo automated vehicle business.

The automaker said its Ford Pro commercial vehicle business and Ford Blue combustion and hybrid vehicle business both posted higher year-on-year revenue, EBIT and EBIT margins. Vehicle sales to dealers in both units were lower than a year ago.

Adjusted free cash flow fell to $1.2 billion, from $3.6 billion a year earlier.

(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit and Nathan Gomes and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru Additional reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonEditing by Devika Syamnath, Peter Henderson and Matthew Lewis)