LaNeve Aims to Bolster Ford’s Car Sales

Ford’s U.S. car sales fell nearly across the board, with the exception of the newly launched ’15 Mustang, which posted a 31.8% gain last month.

Byron Pope, Associate Editor

March 3, 2015

3 Min Read
Focus sales fell 119 in February
Focus sales fell 11.9% in February.

Ford’s car sales remained sluggish, dropping 8.1% in February, but Mark LaNeve, the automaker’s recently appointed vice president-U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service, says jump-starting that part of the lineup is a priority.

“I think we’ve got the gold standard in the truck business any way you measure it, and we’re a volume leader in utilities,” he says during a conference call with analysts and reporters to discuss February’s sales results.

“We have a big opportunity on cars,” he says. “A big part of where the team is focused on now is running a play on cars and trying to build that business up to perform as well as our truck and utility franchises do.”

Ford’s U.S. car sales fell nearly across the board, with the exception of the newly launched ’15 Mustang, which posted a 31.8% gain last month.

Overall, Ford’s U.S. sales declined 2.0% daily (24 selling days this year and last) compared with year-ago to 176,030, according to WardsAuto data.

Deliveries of the Focus C-car and Fiesta B-car plummeted 11.9% and 23.4%, respectively, while the Fusion midsize sedans saw a 4.8% drop.

“(With) Fiesta and Focus, especially Focus, we want to continue to improve consideration,” LaNeve says. “We don’t want to buy the business. We’re working on it all the time to get the right message in the marketplace.”

Erich Merkle, Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, says the automaker is taking a disciplined approach to cars, citing the automaker’s longstanding objective of building to demand.

“The car segment has been coming down more in favor of utilities, and we’re always going to build to demand,” he says. “The market is really favoring utilities and we’re doing everything we can to keep up with demand and keep our share on the car side.”

While utilities have long been a strong part of Ford’s U.S. lineup, results were mixed in February.

Deliveries of the Escape small CUV dipped 9.6% in the month, while Edge sales slid 40.4% and Flex fell 33.3%.

LaNeve says Edge sales should receive a boost when an all-new model launches later this year. He attributes much of the drop in Escape deliveries to a planned decrease in fleet sales.

“Escape is a very strong performer for us and a big part of our plans for March and April,” he says.

F-150 pickup deliveries were flat in February with 51,593 units sold. The automaker remains in the midst of changing over output to the all-new aluminum-intensive ’15 model and is carefully monitoring the sell-down of ’14 model inventory.

Ford’s Dearborn, MI, truck plant currently is producing ’15 models, and the Kansas City, MO, facility is scheduled to begin output of the new truck this month.

About 21% of February F-150 sales were of the new model, up from 18% in January. Despite the relatively low supply of ’15 F-150s, average transaction prices were up $2,000 vs. year-ago, Merkle says.

Lincoln sales continued to falter, with key models such as the MKZ midsize sedan slipping a whopping 39.7% in February. Lincoln MKS and MKX deliveries were down 27.5% and 44.3%, respectively, while the all-new MKC CUV only moved 1,558 units.

LaNeve says Lincoln volume was affected by a drop in fleet sales, noting retail deliveries were strong.

The seasoned marketing and sales executive, who before joining Ford in January served in senior roles at Team Detroit, General Motors, Volvo and Allstate Insurance, says reinvigorating the Lincoln brand will take time.

“I’ve got a lot of experience with luxury brands, and rebuilding a luxury brand in this business is a long-term proposition,” he says. “You need to focus on residual values and customer experience.”

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2015

About the Author(s)

Byron Pope

Associate Editor, WardsAuto

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