Ford's Big Goal in 2011: Get out of junk status, lower loan rates

2010 was a banner year for Ford Motor Company. Market share and profits were as good as they've been in years, and there is genuine buzz surrounding the Blue Oval's cars and trucks. Heck, even Ford's stock has been a monumental success. But not all that glitters is gold, as Ford is still mired in junk bond status, which in turn makes it more expensive to borrow money. That makes it more pricey for Ford to offer incentives to customers, and lease terms are less attractive than they would otherwise be.

K.R. Kent, Ford's new executive director of investor relations, is charged with getting Ford out of Junk status. Automotive News reports that Ford has been in junk status since 2005 and is currently four grades below junk status after being upgraded by two levels back in August. Ford CFO Lewis Booth admits that the company still has "a lot of steps to go before we get to investment grade." Making the matter more urgent for Ford is the fact that Ally Financial, the finance arm for General Motors and Chrysler, became a bank holding company in the second quarter of 2009. Since that time, AN says that it has been cheaper for Ally to secure loans than Ford Credit.

We're thinking that Ford has a big job in the year ahead, and getting out of junk status will likely take improved auto sales and continued quarterly profits. Booth says Ford will reach its junk-free goal by showing the investment community "authoritative and highly credible insight into our automotive business and Ford Credit."

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]

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