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Ford posts better than expected 3Q profit as sales recover

Last Updated Oct 28, 2020 at 3:30 pm MST

FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2019, file photograph, the company logo shines off the grille of an unsold 2019 F-250 pickup truck at a Ford dealership in Littleton, Colo. Ford Motor Co. posted a stronger-than-expected third-quarter net profit, the company announced Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, as demand for cars and trucks recovered from coronavirus shutdowns and the company sold more high-margin trucks. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. posted a stronger-than-expected third-quarter net profit as demand for cars and trucks recovered from coronavirus shutdowns and the company sold more high-margin trucks.

The automaker says it made $2.39 billion, or 60 cents per share, as factories edged back to normal after the pandemic forced them to be close earlier in the year.

Net income was more than five times what it was a year ago. The company says it now expects positive pretax income for the full year between break even and $500 million in the fourth quarter.

Excluding one-time items, Ford made 65 cents per share, trouncing Wall Street estimates of 20 cents. The company also took in revenue of $37.5 billion, slightly below estimates of $35.73 billion from analysts polled by FactSet.

New Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said Ford expects fourth-quarter pretax income to run from break even to a $500 million loss. But it expects to have positive pretax income for the full year.

The company reported an outsized pretax profit margin of 9.7% for the quarter, with North America’s margin at 12.5%.

Lawler said Ford saw strong top-line pricing as it increased sales of high-profit pickup trucks, commercial vans and SUVs, but it also had cost cuts that flowed from the second quarter into the third.

“Were seeing the benefits of leaning into our strengths, our high demand, profitable vehicles,” he said.

He said the company ran many of its van, truck and SUV plants on full overtime and on weekends through the quarter, trying to make up lost production from earlier in the year.

Automakers were expecting a tough third quarter because they didn’t know how much demand and production would recover from the virus. But Ford saw its U.S. sales down only 5% for the period, with much of the decline from slower sales to large fleet buyers.

At the same time, Ford had its best quarter for pickup truck sales since 2005, and those carry a higher price tag than other vehicles. The company’s average vehicle sales price was $45,599 for the quarter, up 8% from a year ago, according to the Edmunds.com auto pricing site. Ford also picked up a 5% increase in U.S. market share.

Tom Krisher, The Associated Press