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FCA: more profits, no net debt at last; Dakota

by David Zatz on

This is the fifth year of record results for FCA, with an adjusted earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of €7.3 billion, and a net profit of €3.6 billion. (One euro is currently equal to $1.13, so the net profit is  around $4 billion.)

CEO Mike Manley said that the company will probably be able to start paying ordinary dividends in Spring 2019, due to positive cash flow.  Fitch has raised the company’s credit rating to investment grade, going from BBB- to BB, with a stable outlook. FCA has reached Sergio Marchionne’s goal of having no industrial net debt and then some; as of December 31, 2018, the company had €1.9 billion in net cash, with €21.1 billion of liquidity; and the company made accelerated, discretionary payments of €2.35 billion into the pension fund.

In North America, record performance included a 19% gain in adjusted EBIT to €6.2 billion; the margin rose from 7.9% to a respectable 8.6%. FCA sales went up, yielding a market share gain from 11.4% to 12.0%, and a U.S. retail market share gain of 11.5% to 12.3% — historically a good number for Chrysler. Net revenues went from €66.1 billion to €72.4 billion. On the gain side were higher volumes, more favorable vehicle mixes, lower advertising, and higher pricing (partly offset by higher incentives); on the downside were increased content costs, higher launch and logistic costs, and unfavorable exchange rates. Inventories did rise, from 86 days to an unhealthy 90 days, due partly to delays in selling new models; the company expects this to clear up.

In Latin America, sales were up; market share went from 12.4% to 12.8%, and shipments went up from €521 billion to €584 billion. Market share in Brazil was flat, but it was up in Argentina. Adjusted EBIT margin went from 1.9% to a healthier 4.4%.

In Asia-Pacific, inventories dropped from 86 to 80 days, but market share is still quite low, dropping slightly from 0.8% to 0.7%, with 142,000 joint-venture sales and 228,000 sales including joint ventures and FCA sales. The vehicle mix was unfavorable, incentives were higher, and pricing changes had to be made in China. Industrial costs dropped and the company advertised less, but margin still fell from 5.3% to -11.0%.

In Europe/Middle East/Asia (EMEA), sales dropped, market share fell from 6.6% to 6.5% (from 11.4% to 11.1% for vans), and the margin fell from 3.2% to 1.8% (corrected from -1.8%; FCA made a profit in EMEA.)

Overall, margin fell somewhat due to European weakness. Net revenue increased from €111 billion to €115 billion; revenues would have increased at constant exchange rates.

The company is expects a less profitable 2019, with an adjusted EBIT and margin below 2018’s €6.7 billion and 6.1%.

In the Q&A, Mike Manley said that the around 10%-15% of Gladiators would probably be from potential Wrangler buyers; but he still expected a 10-15% gain in Wrangler sales. The Ram 1500 has the highest conquest ratio at the moment (attracting competitors). Last year, Ram was essentially flat in a market that fell with heavy duty trucks, so Manley expects higher share in heavy duty trucks this year. He also said that he believed companies would resist overly heavy incentives in heavy duty pickups over the next year; and that the Ram Classic strategy should help with the company’s relatively low share in commercial fleet pickup sales.

Dakota. When asked if Ram would bring back the Dakota midsized pickup, Manley said that the Gladiator was going to hit that segment, but that the only vehicle really missing from the Ram/Fiat Commercial range was a metric-ton pickup—in the US, a midsize. He said there would be a slightly different configuration in the US.

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