Fears that the auto industry is due for a downturn may be fading. Ford posted record profits in the first quarter of 2016, the company announced Thursday. Chief financial officer Bob Shanks said Ford enjoyed its best quarterly performance in history, generating operating profits of $3.8 billion and a record profit margin of 9.8 percent. Overall, the company’s $2.5 billion profit in the quarter more than doubled from the 2015 quarterly results.
“The first quarter was an absolutely terrific start to the year, an all-time record for the company, with very strong performance across the business,” said chief executive officer Mark Fields. “We’re excited about our future and confident in our ability to deliver long-term growth and profitability as we expand our business model to be both an auto and a mobility company.”
During the quarter, Ford announced the creation of Ford Smart Mobility, a new subsidiary that would vet future mobility projects in the realm of car-sharing, fractional ownership and autonomous deployment. The company also kicked off a billion-dollar makeover of its Dearborn, Michigan campus and headquarters.
The company’s after-tax earnings of $0.68 per share trumped Wall Street’s expectations, and were significantly up from $0.39 per share year ago. The results were buoyed by the company’s fourth consecutive quarter of growth in Europe, which comes after a long period of stagnant sales.
Ford’s earnings results come amid reports that April car sales are on pace to jump 4 percent year over year, which would make it the best-selling April in history. Kelley Blue Book projects that car sales will reach 1.51 million this month, placing the industry on track for 17.5 million vehicles sold in 2016. Even as SUV and crossover sales drive the market, analysts say Nissan and Honda are positioned to benefit from renewed interest in mid-size cars.
“Following a disappointing March, we expect sales to get back on track in April with SAAR in the mid-17 million range,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Increased fleet sales and rising incentive spending among automakers remain the factors to watch, but the retail demand appears to be holding steady, signaling the industry’s strong run isn’t over quite yet.”