Fans of Detroit muscle might be firing up some angry emails if modern internet trends ring true, with Barclays analyst Brian Johnson’s take on Ford (NYSE:F) unlikely to go over well with gearheads. Following his downgrade on the automotive icon — rating shares a “hold” from “buy” — F stock responded immediately to the negative, though an afternoon run has mitigated some of the pain.
Still, investors probably won’t be too happy with a loss of around 3% for the day. Moreover, 2022 has gotten off to a rotten start for Ford. Over the trailing month, F stock has shed approximately 11%, while on a year-to-date basis, it’s on track to drop 28%. Just on these headline performance metrics, Johnson is right to be concerned.
But the fundamental headwinds are where prospective investors must focus their due diligence. After all, Johnson’s downgrading to $17 from $23 is significant and requires substantive justification. In his view, stakeholders of F stock don’t just have to worry about competitive threats. Rather, factors outside of Ford’s control — namely, the Federal Reserve — could render F as an “F.”
With unprecedented expansion of the M2 money stock combined with the unusual dynamics of the coronavirus pandemic, consumer prices have gotten completely out of whack. In response, the Fed aims to address inflationary pressures through interest rate hikes. But that would only make financing new cars more prohibitive for consumers. According to current data, 85% of new car purchases are financed.
In Johnson’s equation, higher borrowing costs combined with already steep sticker shock will lead to lower revenue opportunities for Ford and other automakers. Thus, the apprehension toward F stock is understandable.
Nevertheless, I’m on the camp that this downgrade is an opportunity for Ford stock — and I’m not just saying that because I own a long position. While it’s true that higher consumer cost structures represent a heavy distraction against automotive players, here are three realities to consider:
- We need cars. According to Nature, in the U.S., “91% of adults commute to work using personal vehicles.”
- Our cars are getting older. According to the Wall Street Journal, the “average age of vehicles on U.S. roadways rose to a record 12.1 years” in 2020.
- We often don’t control our automotive destiny. Like feline custodianship, our control is on paper only. In other words, if a car breaks down, that breakdown determines your action, irrespective of your desires.
Thus, while I completely respect Johnson’s concerns, I also have a response: You gotta do what you gotta do. Indeed, this cynical backdrop is what keeps utility firms in business. If they hike energy rates, what recourse do you really have in a major metropolitan area? Not use electricity?
With Ford and other high-profile automakers, their products represent a necessity. In addition, Ford’s pivot to electric vehicles is already wildly successful and F stock should prove a viable long-term discount at current prices.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto held a LONG position in F. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.