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Ford Motor Chair Bill Ford on automaker’s stock rally, SPACs and investors


DETROIT – After a decade of mediocrity, shares of Ford Motor are up by nearly 50% so far this year and on pace for their best annual performance since 2009.

Investors like the new turnaround plan from CEO Jim Farley called Ford+ that aims to better position the automaker to build electric and autonomous vehicles as well as to generate recurring revenue. Thus far, electric vehicle introductions from Ford such as the Mustang Mach-E and upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning have been well-received by investors.

Ford Chair Bill Ford says the company plans to keep the momentum going into 2022 and beyond, despite an ongoing global shortage of semiconductor chips causing production disruptions.

“When we came out with the Mustang Mach-E and then the F-150 Lightning, I think it really surprised a lot of people. Not just the fact that we came out with those vehicles but frankly how good they were,” he told CNBC. “I think you’re starting to see that in the investor base. Really, that’s the tip of the iceberg though.”

Ford, whose great-grandfather Henry Ford founded the automaker, sat down recently with CNBC to discuss the company’s stock rally, turnaround plan as well as special purpose acquisition companies and retail investors. Here are some highlights of that interview.

Dividend

Ford said reinstating the company’s coveted dividend, which was cut in March 2020, is “quite prominent” on its to-do list, but he wouldn’t say when. Ford, chair since 1999, and other company executives have said it needs to be the right time, as the industry continues to work through the coronavirus pandemic and a global shortage of semiconductor chips.

“We’re looking at doing it as soon as we possibly can,” he said. “We have a very large portion of employee and retiree ownership, and they care deeply about the dividend as well.”

More upside

Preferred shares

Incoming Ford CEO Jim Farley (left) and Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. pose with a 2021 F-150 during an event Sept. 17, 2020 at the company’s Michigan plant that produces the pickup.

Michael Wayland | CNBC

“We’re not a nameless faceless corporation, and people know that there’s a family, and in my case an individual, who’s going to be there through thick and thin, won’t take a golden parachute and bail out, and cares deeply about the company,” he said.

Ford board members

Ford, 64, has no plans of stepping down from the company’s board for the foreseeable future, even as a younger generation of family members join the board. His daughter, Alexandra Ford English, and nephew, Henry Ford III, were both elected to the company’s board in May.

Ford, who joined the board in 1988, said the time was right for the two to become directors and learn the ropes. He said being on the board as a young executive with his father as well as his cousin, Edsel Ford II, who stepped down from the board earlier this year, provided a lot of value.

“I wanted to provide the same kind of mentorship for them as they go forward and start to carry the torch for the Ford family,” he said.

SPACs

Retail investors

Whether Ford investors are institutional or retail, Ford said he wants them to be long-term owners of the stock.

“What we really like is, at least, I’ll speak personally, are long term investors who want to be with us on the journey that we’re going on,” he said. “And if they’re retail investors or institutional mean, either way, that’s great.”



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