Why Ford (NYSE: F) Stock is On a Roll

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For three decades now, I've trusted Fords.

I got my first used Ford Escort as a college kid, drove it for years, then passed it down to my younger brother.

I bought a brand-new red Mustang in the late 1980s - and still regret ever having sold it.

I've since had an Escort wagon, which died only because the guy who changed the oil didn't put the cap back on the oil pan when he was done.

And I just bought my latest Escort - a 2001 model with more than 95,000 miles on it. I have every reason to believe that with proper TLC, it'll go to at least 200,000.

How I went from a new Mustang in the late '80's to a 12-year-old Escort - a car Ford doesn't even make anymore - that's another story.

But you get the picture. I believe in the Ford brand.

And I'm not alone.

Indeed, Ford leads the auto industry in brand loyalty, with a rate of 65.1%, the automotive analyst Polk reports.

Wishing I had Bought Ford Stock

If only I had bought Ford Motor Co. (NSFE: F) stock back when I bought my first Escort.

It's been on a roll lately.

Ford stock hit a 100-week high last week and has soared from $9.35 a year ago to $16.73 Friday afternoon.

Looking forward, analysts expect Ford stock to earn $1.43 a share this year and $1.68 next, which for such a mature company is solid.

U.S. sales at Ford, the oldest U.S. car company (and the only one of the Big 3 that didn't get a government bailout), grew 13% compared with a year ago - for the best June results since 2006.

Ford's sales growth led all U.S. auto companies, buoyed by the F-Series truck, the No. 1-selling vehicle in the country.

Ford car sales climbed 12%, sport-utility vehicles, 8%, and trucks 20%. The F-series pickups, including the popular F-150, increased 24%.

Sales of Ford's small cars - including Fiesta, Focus and C-MAX - totaled 35,851, up 39% over last year for the best June small car performance in 13 years. The SUV Escape had its best-ever monthly sales, 28,694 vehicles.

Across the Atlantic, Ford of Europe also outperformed the auto industry as a whole in year-over-year sales for June. Ford sales rose 6.4%, to 106,500, while industry sales dropped 6.5% in Ford's traditional 19 European markets, the company said.

Ford's resurgence comes as the auto industry is booming anew and the U.S. auto market is on a pace for its best year since 2007.

Improving Economy, Pent-Up Demand

Higher sales can be attributed partly to improvements in the economy and partly to pent-up demand for new cars.

Consider that the U.S. remains about 19 million cars behind the number consumers would have bought form 2008-2012 if pre-recession purchase levels had held, according to the Credit Union National Association.

And during the economic doldrums, people have held on to their older cars longer: The cars driven by Americans now comprise the oldest auto fleet in U.S. history, so consumers will be lining up to replace them with new ones.

At the same time, jobs are more stable and the combination of debts and interest among Americans as a percentage of income has dipped to its lowest level in 20 years, freeing money for purchases like cars.

For Ford, that will mean steady growth.

The company' s expected to report Q2 earnings of 37 cents a share on revenue of $35.24 billion, up from 26 cents a share on revenue of $31.33 billion a year ago.

Ford's market share in the United States has edged up from 16.1% a year ago to 16.7% now.

For this year, Ford sales have risen 13%, topping both GM's 8% and 6% for Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) and Honda Motor Co. (NYSE: HMC)

Along with strength in pickup truck sales, Ford reported its share of the U.S. electric vehicle market has quadrupled, to nearly 16%, in the first half of 2013.

In June, Ford says, 64% of C-MAX Hybrid buyers came from non-Ford brands, and the vehicle most traded in for a Ford C-MAX is a Toyota Prius.

Ford's putting heavy emphasis on the electric vehicle, expanding the electrification engineering team by nearly 50%, to 500 employees, and investing an additional $50 million in electrified product development and testing centers in Dearborn, MI.

"Strong consumer acceptance of Ford hybrids shows that our plan to lead in fuel economy across our lineup is working," Raj Nair, group vice president of Global Product Development at Ford, said in a news release. "Our commitment to deliver great fuel economy in our cars, utilities and trucks is a key reason we are seeing strong growth in coastal markets and with import buyers."

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