DETROIT (TheStreet) -- Near the end of Ford's (F - Get Report) conference call on Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks uttered his most memorable quote, declaring, "Our business is not linear.
"I've said that over and over again," Shanks said. "Back in the restructuring of North America and a great recession, we invested very heavily in the business."
The point was that Ford's fortunes don't follow a straight line, but rather face ups and downs for which the company must be prepared. Shanks recalled how Ford took out a $24 billion loan in 2006, how "it gave us the ability to survive the downturn," and how, "more importantly then all, it gave us the ability to continue to invest. We continue to invest because we know the business is cyclical."
Now, with the auto business strong, Ford is doing the same thing it did when the business was weak. It is investing in the future, a policy straight out of the Alan Mulally playbook. (When Mulally was at Boeing, the company" developed every new airplane during the worst of times," Mulally said in a 2009 interview. ) Said Shanks, "As we are looking forward, we are growth driven, we are committed to be a much bigger player in the business and to expand for the benefit of all of our shareholders -- not growth for growth's sake, but profitable growth."
Wall Street doesn't like this stuff, because Ford said it will sacrifice 2014 profit in favor of future growth. It said profit would fall from about $8.5 billion this year to between $7 billion and $8 billion in 2014. Investors sold off shares Wednesday and into Thursday. Ford shares closed Tuesday at $16.70 and closed Thursday at $15.30, a decline of 8%. For the year, shares are up 18%.