Even though Ford Motor ( F) isn't enjoying the kind of year shareholders are seeing at Amgen (shares of Ford are down 3% year-to-date), this Detroit car giant is still looking solid from a fundamental standpoint right now. And that could mean a hike to Ford's 5-cent quarterly dividend payout in the near-term. Here's why. >>Buffett's "Secret" Reveals 5 Stocks to Buy Ford has made some huge inroads at making great cars again. In the last three years, it's introduced new platforms for all of its most popular models, revisions that have been extremely popular with the public and with car reviewers. Ford's story is one where it's truly that simple: Better cars mean better sales. The firms' ability to successfully negotiate with its union is the other half of the equation; after all, sales are meaningless if the firm can't earn a profit. While the U.S. is definitively Ford's biggest car market (followed not-so-closely by Europe), emerging markets have been looking increasingly promising lately. In particular, Ford's numbers in China show that the firm is growing at a breakneck pace in the People's Republic, which bodes well for top-line growth in the years ahead. And a solid balance sheet -- with a return to an investment grade rating -- bodes well for a hike to Ford's 2% dividend payout in the next quarter.