A slew of exciting news for the Detroit based automaker has sent Ford (NYSE:F) shares streaking this week, up 3.5% today as well. Among the company’s most prominent recent moves is a decision to up the scale of its operations on the African continent. After spending $500 million to upgrade a large factory in South Africa, the company announced this morning that it plans to start a new campaign to boost its African market share (currently at 10%) through sales and marketing of its Ranger model pickup truck. Ford currently lags behind industry leaders Toyota (NYSE:TM), Volkswagen, and General Motors (NYSE:GM) in Africa, but believes its upgraded factory and stronger sales outlook will position it to gain ground in the emerging market. African nations averaged GDP growth of 4% last year.
Also in the works for the automaker is a stronger sales year in 2011, as the company reports expectations of 13-13.5 million sales this year, up from earlier projections of 11.5-12 million. Ford reps. say supply chain issues related to the earthquake in Japan coupled with high domestic energy prices stymied sales growth in the first two quarters this year, leaving sales totals artificially lower than expected. U.S. auto sales fell off 3.7% in May, though Ford (NYSE:F) outperformed the sector with a sales slump of just 2.6%. The company is not paying any mind to talk of another recession, saying “The likelihood of a double dip is not even on our radar screen. There’s too much uncertainty to say with clarity when sales in the U.S. will return to the levels we saw earlier” in the century.”
Domestically, Ford’s market share is strong and growing, its products accounted for 17.2% of U.S. auto sales in the first half of 2011, coming in 2nd behind competitor General Motors (NYSE:GM). Ford cars took 17.8% of the auto markets in May, and the company expects that mark to grow in the second half of the year. Analyst Joseph Amaturo wrote bullishly on the company this morning, saying “Ford could likely outpace overall U.S. light vehicle sales, which we believe could ‘boost’ share in the near-term.”
Competitors to Watch: Toyota (NYSE:TM), Honda (NYSE:HMC), General Motors (NYSE:GM). Other companies to watch: AutoZone (NYSE:AZO), CarMax (NYSE:KMX), Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), Tata Motors Limited (NYSE:TTM) and Navistar Intl. Corp. (NYSE:NAV).
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