Ford Motor

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Shareholders in Ford Motor ( F) are enjoying a knockout year in 2013. That's because the $68 billion automaker has seen its share price climb by more than 31% since the calendar flipped to January, more than doubling the impressive performance that the S&P 500 has turned out. And the ongoing improvements at this Detroit giant are continuing to provide tailwinds right now.

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Investors shouldn't forget that Ford was the only Detroit automaker that didn't go bust in the wake of 2008 -- and the only one that didn't wipe out shareholders (even if it did destroy value to stay afloat). No amount of cost fixes, union deals or economic improvement saved Ford from certain death. Instead, it saved itself by building better cars. Ford's fully revamped line of models now gets top quality marks from review agencies, and they've managed to get car buyers excited about driving behind a blue oval again. The one-two punch of record low interest rates and the oldest car fleet in U.S. history is adding fuel to the fire now, helping Ford achieve stellar sales growth.

There's no question that Ford's improved financials have helped the firm look attractive to investors again. The firm's ability to regain profitability, achieve an investment-grade debt rating, and start issuing a dividend again are all huge milestones. And now, as the black clouds are starting to part over the Eurozone economy, Ford's huge exposure to the continent should start looking less like a liability and more like a big benefit again. Stay tuned for earnings at the end of next month.

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