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Ford's Earning Report and Intangibles


Ford’s 3rd quarter earnings report, released this morning, showed a surprisingly large net income of almost $1 billion. The company reported that it:

…reduced its Automotive structural costs by $1 billion in the quarter, largely driven by lower manufacturing and engineering costs, which included benefits from improved productivity, personnel reduction actions primarily in North America and Europe, and progress on implementing its common global platforms and product development processes.

So this leaves two questions: First, how much of these cost reductions came from cuts in intangible investments such as engineering, research and development?

The answer is: The earnings report doesn’t tell us. R&D and product development are not broken out separately on a quarterly basis, even though Ford has had an enormous budget for these items ($7.3 billion in 2008, according to the 10K).

Second, is engineering, research and development money being shifted to Ford’s overseas operations? Once again, the earnings report is mute on this point. The 10K says

We maintain extensive engineering, research and design centers for these purposes, include large centers in Dearborn, Michigan; Dunton, England; Gothenburg, Sweden; and Aachen and Merkenich, Germany

As Ford makes “progress on implementing its common global platforms and product development processes,” it would be good to know the size of the ER&D spending cuts and where they are hitting.


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