Both companies are being monitored for downgrades by SP and Moody’s Investment Services. The investment rating companies also have Fiat Chrysler under review, although it could move up depending on its expected merger with French automaker PSA Group.
Fitch downgraded Ford and GM as well as their financial arms Thursday. GM fell one notch to BBB- from BBB; Ford was lowered to ‘BB+’ from ‘BBB-‘. Both downgrades were based on expectations that their credit profiles will remain weak for a prolonged period due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Moody’s downgraded Ford from investment-grade to junk status in September, followed by SP Global Ratings in March, which lowered its credit rating to BB+, one notch below investment grade. GM remains just above junk at Baa3 with Moody’s.
Entering this year, Ford’s debt, excluding its lending arm, was at $15.3 billion, up $1.2 billion from the previous year. That compares with GM at nearly $14.4 billion in 2019, up $423 million from the prior year.
Ford is in the midst of a multiyear $11 billion restructuring plan that kicked off in 2018 and includes spending $7 billion in cash. Ford’s Stone said the plan remains “on track,” although the coronavirus has all automakers reworking their plans unlike any other crisis.
“I never had a business plan that was called pandemic,” Ford CEO and President Jim Hackett told investors on April 28. “I mean that in all sincerity, because we just never imagined the economy turning off. And the other two crises that I was in, we had deep troughs of issues, but this was unique.”