Fusion has bestever September volume

Fusion has best-ever September volume.

Lincoln Posts Best September in Four Years, but Ford Declines

The continued planned reduction in daily-rental fleet sales was the culprit behind many nameplate declines in September, Ford says.

Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand last month saw its best sales since September 2010, but that wasn’t enough to boost Ford’s total deliveries as the automaker fell 7.0% behind year-ago on a daily-selling-rate basis to 175,777 units, WardsAuto data shows.

As in August, Ford reduced its fleet sales, which tempered the growth in retail deliveries, the automaker says.

While Ford’s retail-sales tally of 137,297 was the best in seven years, fleet sales fell 14% from year-ago.

Daily rental again was the culprit, with that category’s percentage falling 40% as Ford works to boost residual values, which can be lowered when daily-rental models hit the used market.

“Also we’ve seen a more competitive pricing environment in rental,” John Felice, vice president-U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service, tells media today during a conference call.

He notes, though, that commercial and government fleet sales remain a key part of Ford’s business. Both categories were up for the automaker in September.

While Lincoln car sales were down sharply last month, with the MKZ falling 27.4% and the MKS down 44.0%, the new MKC CUV added 1,763 units.

That helped boost Lincoln’s total sales 7.8% on a DSR basis to 7,257, the brand’s highest September volume since September 2010’s 7,510.

The MKC is taking just 15 days to turn on dealer lots, Felice says.

The reduction in fleet harmed total sales of some of Ford’s “super segment” models, including the Escape small-midsize CUV, which resides in one of the industry’s hottest sectors.

While Escape retail sales were up 8%, fleet sales fell 46%, bringing total Escape deliveries down 7.9% on a DSR basis.

The C-segment Focus car, too, was impacted by the fleet decline. While its retail sales rose 17%, total purchases slipped 11.8%, WardsAuto data shows.

The Fusion was the only Ford-brand passenger car to show a year-on-year increase, rising 4.0% to 21,693, the car’s best-ever September tally.

Retail sales, particularly in California and Texas, drove Fusion’s growth last month.

“California is responsible for more than 20% of the Fusion retail sales growth this year, more than any other state,” Felice says, noting a 32% gain in San Francisco.

Texas was responsible for 14% of the retail increase for the D-car, he says, with Houston-area volume rising 38%.

The Transit Connect van was Ford’s biggest-rising light truck in September by far, up 24.2% on a DSR basis. The Transit Connect’s 4,132 sales was its best-ever monthly total.

The Explorer was the only other Ford-brand light truck in the black last month, up 1.2%.

Mustang sales plummeted 31.5% as Ford is selling down ’14 models and launching the all-new ’15 Mustang, the first sale of which was recorded at the end of September.

Felice says “only 4,400” units of the ’14 model remain in stock.

Also taking a hit last month and with a new model around the corner was the F-Series pickup, down 5.7%.

“The incentive spend was up sequentially from August to September but still remains well below year-ago levels,” Felice says when reminded Ford had an average $4,300 on the hood of the outgoing ’14 F-Series.

Erich Merkle, Ford’s U.S. sales analyst, says $4,300 is $160 below last September’s spiff and is the lowest incentive spending among the three major truck makers.

Felice does not say specifically whether General Motors’ and Chrysler’s aggressiveness in the market is impacting Ford’s marketing decisions with the truck.

Average transaction prices for fullsize pickups in September ran ahead of year-ago by $1,800, Merkle says, noting this is a direct result of high interest in the segment.

Last week Chrysler announced it was upping Ram 1500 production by 100 units per day at its Warren, MI, truck plant due to high demand.

Ford forecasts industry sales in September of 1.265 million to 1.275 million, a 10% increase.  Merkle says retail will represent about 84% of total monthly deliveries.

Ford predicts a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 14 million units for retail in September, and a September total industry SAAR, including medium and heavy trucks, in the mid- to high 16 million-unit range.

Emily Kolinski Morris, who today was promoted to Ford’s chief economist, replacing the retiring Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, says economic indicators are mostly favorable for the remainder of the year, with continued “robust” manufacturing activity, gradually improving employment and stabilization of the housing sector.

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