NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Ford Motor (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report has much to prove to shareholders about its bold decision to redesign its top-selling F Series pickup trucks with an aluminum body rather than steel.
F Series pickups are responsible for about 90% of Ford's profit. Switching manufacturing processes and the delays transitioning from the incumbent pickup to the newcomer have been costly -- the specifics evident today in Ford's fourth-quarter and full-year 2014 financial results. Fourth-quarter net income was $52 million or 1 cent a share, down about $3 billion from the same period last year.
Losses overseas and the high cost of recalls also hurt Ford's results. Ford shares recently rose 1.3% to $14.66, down 5.5% for the year to date.
But the automaker said pre-tax profit in 2015 could be as much as $9.5 billion, compared with 2014's full-year pre-tax profit of $6.3 billion. Bob Shanks, Ford's chief financial officer, said the changeover and introduction of the new pickup "is going extremely well" and that two Ford factories manufacturing the vehicle, in Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo., will "be up and running" in the second quarter.
"Ford likely is happy to close the books on 2014 and look ahead to 2015," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for AutoTrader.com. "Ford's U.S. sales show the continuing shift towards pickup trucks, when Ford is transitioning its F-150 to the new aluminum-bodied version, and sport utilities, like the Explorer and Escape, at the expense of cars, like the Focus and Fusion.
"Ford's efforts to transform Lincoln paid off in higher sales in 2014, up 22%." she said. "But at a price, as Lincoln incentives shot up 11% to nearly $5,800 a vehicle."
The automaker said removing 700 pounds of weight from the pickup will improve fuel economy, giving the F Series an edge against its main competitors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) - Get Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. ReportRam pickup and the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra from General Motors (GM) - Get General Motors Company (GM) Report .
Ford branded vehicles of all types, including pickups, lost more than a point of market share in the U.S. last year. Transaction prices on Ford vehicles fell 0.2% for the year to $33,170, according to an estimate by Kelley Blue Book.
Since September, when Ford issued warnings that 2014 earnings would be lower, the company's common shares have lost about 17% of their value. In early January, the company raised its quarterly dividend by 20% to 15 cents a share.
A couple of factors in Ford's favor this year is the overall consumer trend toward larger vehicles and crossovers as well as declining fuel prices, which puts more money in the pockets of potential buyers. Later this year Ford will introduce redesigned Explorer and Escape crossovers.
Karl Brauer, a Kelley Blue Book senior analyst, said the trend from cars to crossovers and sport-utility vehicles accelerated in 2014 ahead of Ford's ability to keep up.
TheStreet Ratings team rates FORD MOTOR CO as a Buy with a ratings score of B. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate FORD MOTOR CO (F) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its attractive valuation levels, good cash flow from operations and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: F Ratings Report
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.