No doubt Ford has seen the light shining at the end of its turnaround plan for a while, but now The Blue Oval is getting so close to the daylight it might even be able to smell the fresh air. By the end of 2005, Ford bonds were rated so low by the three major ratings agencies they was floating in the cistern below the basement of junk status. After Mulally came onboard, the company put up everything to get the money to work his plan, from the company logo to its real estate. In order to get it back, two of the three agencies need to rate Ford bonds as investment grade, and one, Fitch, has just done so.
Fitch has certified Ford bonds as BBB-, the first investment-grade level, and issued a stable outlook for the company and its finance arm. Ford remains just one step below investment worthy with both Standard & Poor's and Moody's, but with "a solid Q1" predicted by by Citigroup and Morgan Stanley analysts (they expect earnings to match Q1 2011 in spite of European and Asia-Pacific sales doldrums), the final turn might not be far away.
When it does, Ford will have achieved what it laid out as Job One for 2012. As well as getting its assets out of hock, Dearborn will also greatly reduce its borrowing costs. Ford's head of investor relations, Michael Seneski, vowed in December that Ford would return to investors' good graces by showing "authoritative and highly credible insight into our automotive business and Ford Credit." We're of the opinion that an increasing flow of good products haven't hurt, either.