Ford F-150
The new aluminum-body Ford F-150 will be fully stocked at dealerships by June and is expected to help Ford rebound from last year's declining sales, profit and market share. Ford Motor

UPDATE April 28, 8:30 a.m. EDT: Click here to read Ford Motor's first-quarter earnings results.

Original story begins here:

Despite a booming U.S. auto market that’s seen cars, SUVs and trucks rolling off dealer lots at a pace that’s been growing for five consecutive years, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) took a hit in 2014 as U.S. sales declined vs. rivals. Its share of the world’s second-largest car market retreated as General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Honda gained -- a fact surely on investors’ minds as they anticipate Ford announcing its first-quarter results before market open on Tuesday.

With Russia and South America in economic doldrums and European sales weak, the only place Ford experienced marked growth in 2014 was in Britain, where the Ford Fiesta is the country’s best-selling car, and China, where Ford’s presence is small compared to its rivals'.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Ford to report 16 percent higher net income for the first three months of the year compared to the year-ago period, to $1.15 billion. Earnings per share are seen rising from 25 cents to 27 cents. Revenue is expected to be almost flat, rising from $33.90 billion to $33.92 billion.

A strong dollar is wiping out revenues at large U.S. companies in the first three months of the year. Last week, General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) reported an earnings miss, including a $1.8 billion loss in revenue attributed to sales earned in foriegn currencies. Ford will report a smiliar negative impact on Tuesday.

The Dearborn, Michigan, carmaker was hit with a triple whammy last year. First it had to take its immensely popular F-150 out of production to upgrade two U.S. factories for the new aluminum-body 2015 F-150, driving down sales of the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Second, low oil prices beckoned U.S. consumers away from Ford’s smaller cars to its SUVs. And thirdly, some of the company’s bigger cars have been in the market for a while, so customers shifted to more-recent SUV and full-sized sedan offerings from its rivals. “Ford Motor is at the end of a cycle for many of its high-volume sellers,” said Jack Nerad, vice president of editorial for automotive pricing and researcher Kelley Blue Book. “Those will be renewed this year.”

In automotive parlance, a cycle begins every time a model comes out. In the first two to three years a new or next-generation model typically sells well, but demand begins to wane as rivals present new versions of competing models. Ford will to release face-lifted or significantly altered versions of some of its more popular vehicles later this year, including the 2016 Ford Fusion sedan, 2016 Ford Explorer SUV and 2016 Escape compact crossover.

These are the cars Nerad says will help Ford rebound this year.

Ford’s F-150 truck assembly lines in Kansas City and Dearborn began in earnest in the past quarter after production and supply of the country’s most popular vehicle was interrupted to upgrade the plants to aluminum fabrication. F-Series truck sales, which include Ford’s heavy trucks but is largely comprised of F-150 sales, were up 2.3 percent to 177,312 in the first three months of the year as Ford ramped up its assembly production of the new truck. F-Series deliveries made up nearly a third of all Ford-brand vehicles sales in the first quarter, roughly the same share the line had with the steel F-150 in prior years. This means consumers appear to be embracing the aluminum F-150.

"Thanks to stronger-than-expected customer demand, we're adding 1,550 new workers to support additional F-150 production," Joe Hinrichs, Ford president for the Americas, announced in March as the Kansas City plant began assembly of the new truck. Dealerships, he said, should be fully stocked by June.

Ford’s performance is expected by analysts to improve from a lackluster first quarter.

“We project 6 percent higher total revenues in 2015, boosted by increased global industry demand and new products in the U.S., including the new Ford-150 pickup truck, which should be partly offset by the stronger dollar and regional weakness,” Standard & Poor’s equity analyst Efraim Levy said. Big on the agenda for Ford moving forward will be China, where as a relative newcomer the automaker has a small but rapidly growing presence. Nerad said that the Ford has created a lot of buzz in China over its upcoming Lincoln Continental revival. The concept version of the luxury sedan is making its appearance at the Shanghai Auto Show, along with a new Taurus sedan that will be made specifically for the Chinese market.

“There was a lot of talk about the Lincoln Continental Concept in Shanghai,” said Nerad. “Lincoln has a great reputation in China as the car of American presidents. There’s not a lot of baggage in China with the Lincoln. Ford is a newcomer with a clean sheet of distribution, so they can experiment, like trying out boutique luxury-car showrooms.”

So with Ford’s investments in China appearing to pay off, and the ramp-up of F-150 production, Blue Oval seems ready to get its groove back.