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Ford continues momentum with strong third quarter

Ford Motor Company
Alan Mulally with one of his company's cars

Ford Motor Company continues to improve its bottom line, after a massive restructuring effort began in 2006.

The company had a record third quarter profit, before taxes and special taxes. After those expenses, Ford made $1.3 billion from July through September.

It's not just about North America and the highly profitable F-150, says Bob Shanks, Ford's Chief Financial Officer.

"I think one of the big stories of the quarter is the fact that if you take the operations outside of North America and combine them, they were actually profitable. And that's the first time we were able to do that since the second quarter of 2011."

Ford lost $228 million in Europe, pre-tax, but that was about half the loss the company suffered in the region in the third quarter of 2012.

Ford made $159 million in South America and $126 million before taxes in Asia.

Ford also continued to "de-risk" its underfunded pension plans. The company contributed $1.1 billion to its global funded pension plans, which included about $700 million of discretionary payments to its U.S. funded plans.

Ford is also about 80% done with a pension buy-out program. The company expects to complete the program by the end of this year, when it will announce how many pensioners accepted the offer.

Ford Credit, the company's finance arm, made $427 million in the third quarter.

Ford Motor Company is getting ready for a big change in the next year. The man who steered the company to health, Alan Mulally, will likely retire by the end of 2014.

That is, if he doesn't leave sooner to take the top job at Microsoft. Multiple news stories in business publications have breathlessly speculated he is one of the top candidates for that position, although Mulally himself has been mum on the issue.

Mulally's second-in-command, Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, is widely considered the top candidate for CEO when Mulally steps down.