Continued strong business in North America and growth in sales in China powered Ford Motor Co. to a big gain in fourth-quarter profit.
Ford said Tuesday that its profit for the three months ended Dec. 31 jumped 90% to $3 billion from the $1.6 billion of the same period a year earlier. That represented its 18th consecutive quarterly profit. Quarterly revenue rose almost 4% to $37.6 billion from $36.3 billion.
Annual earnings rose 26% to $7.2 billion from $5.7 billion in the previous year. Revenue climbed 10% to $146.9 billion from $133.6 billion.
"We had an outstanding year in 2013, demonstrating that our One Ford plan continues to drive solid results and profitable growth for all," said Alan Mulally, Ford’s chief executive. "We are well positioned for another solid year in 2014."
Ford posted its highest operating profit in more than a decade. The results included record annual profits in North America and its Asia Pacific Africa region. It was nearly break-even in South America and the automaker’s losses in Europe declined from the previous year. Ford’s automotive financing business also was profitable.
“It was one of the best full-year results in our history,” said Robert Shanks, Ford’s chief financial officer.
The Ford results triggered record profit-sharing payments averaging about $8,800 to 47,000 union employees in March.
Mulally said Ford’s operating profit for this year would decline to a range of $7 billion to $8 billion from $8.8 billion in 2013.
Higher capital spending, the cost of launching new models -- especially its redesigned F-150 pickup truck -- and a more competitive pricing environment in the U.S. all will contribute to a lower net income, he said.
Ford will have to close several factories for a combined 13 weeks to shift over to production of the new truck.
Because it will offer a dramatic new architecture, including an aluminum body, the truck presents some risk for the automaker, analysts said. The new version of the pickup, which for decades has been America’s bestselling vehicle and Ford’s biggest profit source, will be 700 pounds lighter than the vehicle it replaces.
“We give Ford credit for pushing the envelope with an innovative product that some would describe as potentially game-changing. However, with the new product comes a good amount of risk,” said Brian Johnson, an analyst at Barclays.
There has already been a delay in the production schedule -- the truck will go on sale at the end of the year instead of the summer, likely due to challenges in stamping, riveting, and welding of the aluminum, Johnson said.
“Ford has been on a lengthy roll, and its high-volume vehicles remain strong in the market,” said Jack Nerad, market analyst at auto information company Kelley Blue Book. “For 2014 it is important that Ford executes a successful wind-down of the current F-150 and make a successful launch of its successor.”