Competition between rivals in neighboring cities is speeding up in America's automotive hub.
As Ford Motor Co. (F) - Get Report undergoes a so-called "double transformation," the case for investing in the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker relative to Detroit-based General Motors Co. (GM) - Get Report is improving, according to J.P. Morgan.
"We believe Ford management understands the previous deficit relative to the positioning of the investment story in comparison to General Motors and also that the story is now improved as a result of the recent announcements," J.P. Morgan analyst Ryan Brinkman wrote in a May 18 research note.
Ford is trimming its product portfolio as its plans to do away with virtually all passenger cars and is doubling down on its most profitable segments, namely trucks and SUVs. And the company's most popular vehicle, the F-150, has restarted production after a fire at a parts supplier forced production to be suspended for just over a week.
The company has also been moving beyond the traditional auto business as it invests in autonomous vehicles. It plans to deploy its autonomous vehicles on a city-by-city basis in 2021.
This move away from cars is significant to the automaker's investment story as it highlights profit improvement potential and represents a willingness to break with the past and a commitment to out-of-the-box strategic thinking that is likely to be applied to other aspects of Ford's business as well, Brinkman said.
It also "effectively plac[es] the ball in GM's court to make similar type improvements," Brinkman said.
Ford Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett said during the first-quarter conference call with analysts that there's about "a 50% upside to our current stock price" that can be realized by just discontinuing things it's doing.
"We believe Ford is in the process of pulling the trigger, or soon to pull the trigger, on walking away from previously core but loss-making aspects of its business," Brinkman said. "We suggest investors pull the trigger on Ford shares now, as its earnings -- and its multiple -- are likely to inflect higher as it undergoes this transformation."
J.P. Morgan reiterated its Overweight rating and its $15 price target on Ford shares.
Still, Ford shares dropped 1.3% to $11.31 at 12 p.m. New York time, after the company issued a safety recall for 151 2018 Ford F-650 and F-750 vehicles.
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