Analysts expected Ford to take a 20-cent per share loss in the third quarter.  Instead, the automaker beat that by 46 cents, posting its first quarterly profit in over a year, and making believers on Wall Street:

Ford Motor Co., the only major U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy, posted a $997 million net income in the third quarter and its first operating profit since early 2008. It expects to be “solidly profitable” in 2011.

On an adjusted basis, Ford reported a quarterly pretax profit of $1.1 billion, or 26 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $3 billion or $1.32. Ford beat the 20-cents per share adjusted loss it was forecast to report by an average of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. …

“Ford is a company that’s well into a turnaround,” said Bernie McGinn, president of McGinn Investment Management of Alexandria, Virginia, which owns about 320,000 Ford shares. “They did it by themselves and didn’t take government money. That gives people a good gut feeling and they’re being rewarded for that.”

While GM and Chrysler struggle, Ford has built a new reputation for independence and competence.  The efforts of its management to steer a course away from taxpayer bailouts has generated a lot of goodwill — perhaps not in Detroit itself or with the unions, but with consumers angry at the corporate welfare policies of this administration and its predecessor.  That goodwill will translate to better sales, assuming that Ford can overcome its competitive disadvantage on labor costs, an effort that will officially fail this week on their first attempt.

However, Ford has to wonder whether they face a disadvantage at all.  For the first time in 80 years, they bested GM in market share, and GM has had to pare back its offerings significantly as a result of their collapse.  GM’s credit group GMAC needs another big bailout, which may or may not be forthcoming — and without it, they’re going to sell fewer cars.  Chrysler hardly even exists at the moment, with or without the bailouts, and looks as though it may fade away at any moment.

Ford has found a formula for success: self-sufficiency, or at least enough of it to differentiate themselves from their domestic competition.

Tags: Virginia