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Allnew Lincoln Aviator shown and sibling Ford Explorer to lift Ford sales in 2019
<p><strong>All-new Lincoln Aviator (<em>shown</em>) and sibling Ford Explorer to lift Ford sales in 2019.</strong><br /> <br /> </p>

Ford Looks to Truck-Heavy Future to Build Sales

Ford&rsquo;s sales dipped for the third consecutive month in March, but demand for the automaker&rsquo;s new large SUVs continued unabated and F-Series trucks gained momentum.

Ford deliveries dipped slightly in March, down 0.8% on a daily-sales-rate basis, while overall volume for the first quarter was off 3.1% on sales of 581,290 light vehicles.

The Ford and Lincoln brands were down 0.6% and 5.6% respectively, according to Wards Intelligence data, with car sales down 11.3% while light trucks gained 2.7% in March compared with year-ago. March had 28 selling days, up one from 2017.

The Edge CUV (+14.4%), compact Focus (+7.8%) and Transit van (+4.4%) showed improvement, as did the volume leader F-Series (+1.8%) with 80,851 deliveries. Although down on a daily-sales basis, the all-new Expedition and the outgoing Escape and Explorer all showed continuing strength, posting similar volume to year-ago levels. The all-new EcoSport compact CUV added 3,296 deliveries to bring its year-to-date total to 6,096 units.

On the car side, the Fiesta, Flex, Fusion, Mustang and Taurus all posted declines led by the Taurus sedan with a 34.5% slide.

Lincoln sales were off despite skyrocketing sales of the all-new Navigator, up 83.9% for the month with 1,711 deliveries. The Continental large luxury sedan dropped 16.7%, while the MKZ midsize sedan plummeted 29.9%.

Ford leadership last month detailed plans to remake the company’s lineup, replacing more than 75% of its current models in the next two years and shifting to a portfolio made up of 86% trucks and SUVs by 2020. The Dearborn automaker’s mix topped 75% light trucks this year.

With all-new replacements for the Escape and Explorer due in 2019, making up 70% of Ford’s SUV volume, the picture looks rosy to Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service.

“We have great replacement products in the pipeline for Escape and Explorer,” LaNeve says.  “We’ll go from one of the oldest utility-vehicle lineups in the market to one of the youngest.”

Lincoln also gets a new SUV next year in the Aviator, revealed at the recent New York auto show. The Aviator shares the Explorer’s rear-wheel-drive chassis.

In the meantime, F-Series pickups and the Expedition and Navigator large SUVs will shoulder much of the sales load, with the EcoSport adding incremental sales at the entry level of the market. LaNeve says the Expedition and Navigator will hit volume projections by midyear as production catches up with demand.

The company currently has a 14-day supply of the Navigator.

“Customers are calling dealers and saying ‘I want your next one,’” regardless of color or trim level, LaNeve says.

News that Fiat Chrysler outdistanced Ford on retail sales during March didn’t ruffle LaNeve, who says the occurrence isn’t unprecedented or surprising given the Escape and Explorer are reaching the end of their lifecycles.

LaNeve says Ford will study General Motors’ announced plan to end public monthly sales reporting and instead provide quarterly reports, but he declined to put a timeline on that review.

“Monthly volatility is a problem,” LaNeve says. “We’ll assess it and do what’s best for Ford.”

[email protected] @bobgritzinger

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