Michigan’s Ford – Riding the Rise and Fall of U.S. Auto Sales

Ford was the only one of the Big 3 to avoid Chapter 11

   

Henry Ford was an iconic American industrialist, whose many contributions to modern manufacturing can most simply be summed up with this idea: mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers.

In its nearly 100-year history, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) has also been an iconic American company. From the Model T to the Mustang to the Explorer, its cars are ingrained in the American psyche. And Michigan, more than any other state, identifies with this love of the automobile. Detroit got its “Motown” and “Motor City” monikers from the presence of automakers like Ford, General Motors (NYSE: GM) and others.

Despite a rich history, Ford refuses to be stuck in the past. A case in point, an ambitious restructuring plan started in 2006 was a big reason the company weathered the financial crisis while the other two of the “Big 3” Detroit automakers went belly-up. In 2010 Ford turned its first profit in 5 years, won both car and truck of the year awards at the North American International Auto Show, and saw its stock soar 43% – three times the broader market. Most recently, Ford posted its best performance for that quarter in 13 years.

Not bad, considering U.S. auto sales are still off considerably from 2007 levels north of 16 million vehicles. Annualized, the industry is on pace to sell about 12 million to 13 million vehicles in 2011.

The fate of the American auto industry is closely tied to the fate of the U.S. economy. Many states in the Midwest like Michigan have not fully transitioned out of older manufacturing economies and into 21st century businesses. As a result, the working folks of Michigan are still really hurting despite Ford’s successes on Wall Street. The state’s 11% unemployment rate is one of the highest in America.

Ford is indeed a global company, but there’s no denying the legacy it holds in Michigan and its presence in the local labor market. Because of its impressive history and recent strength, Ford wins out over General Motors as our Real America stock for Michigan.

Henry Ford was an iconic American industrialist. Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), iconic American company with a rich history, refuses to be stuck in the past. Ford restructured and went on to weather the U.S. financial crisis while the other Detroit automakers went belly-up.

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Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.


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