This week's big news in the auto business included happy milestones for Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) shareholders, signs that things are looking up for some (but not all) automakers in long-troubled Europe, and a war of words -- and more -- between General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) and a powerful overseas union.
Here's what you need to know about the latest developments around the world.
Big gains for Ford in struggling Europe We'll start with Europe, where new-car sales have fallen to a 20-year low and automakers have piled up huge losses. Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) is Europe's second-biggest auto brand after Volkswagen, and it has certainly had its share of red ink -- the Blue Oval's European branch lost more than $1.7 billion last year, and executives have predicted that losses could hit $2 billion in 2013.
Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) launched a major turnaround effort last fall, hoping to break even in 2015 – but already, there are some signs that things are looking up. Ford said on Friday that its sales in the 19 countries it counts as "Europe" were actually up 6.4% last month -- even as the overall industry was down 6.5%. Ford said its latest new models were key contributors to the gains.
That drove Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)'s Europe market share to 8.2%, up a full percentage point from June of last year. Better yet for Ford, this wasn't just a quick boost from rental-fleet business. Ford's rental-fleet sales are down in Europe, the result of a conscious decision to focus on more profitable retail and commercial-vehicle sales.
Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) lost $462 million in Europe in the first quarter. Its second-quarter earnings report is due later this month. If it shows that Ford's losses in Europe have narrowed, that will be a good sign that the plan really is working -- and it could give Ford's stock price a nice boost.
New highs for Tesla Motors -- and Ford stock, too Bloomberg noted earlier this week that America's oldest and youngest automakers -- that would be Ford and Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) -- both saw their shares hit "100-week highs" on Tuesday.
For Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), of course, that was its all-time high. The upstart Silicon Valley automaker saw its shares boosted by the news that its stock will join the benchmark Nasdaq 100 Index, just three years after the company's initial offering.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk also said this week that the company has increased its production of the electric Model S sedan, surpassing its longtime goal of making 400 cars a week. Musk said the company is now aiming at a production rate of 800 vehicles a week by the end of next year. Tesla expects to sell about 21,000 cars this year.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) stock is gaining thanks to a surging new-vehicle market in the U.S., which has given sales of its F-Series pickups a big boost in recent months. The F-Series is a key driver of Ford's profits, and the lineup's 22% sales increase in the first half of 2013 is expected to drive strong earnings in Ford's home market of North America.