The ’13 Lincoln MKZ midsize sedan came on strong in April, surging 106.7% to 4,012 units on a daily selling rate basis.
The increase came as inventory levels normalized following a slowdown caused by Ford’s quality concerns.
Ken Czubay, Ford vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service, says April represented the MKZ’s best-ever month and is proof the premium marque is poised for a comeback.
“In April, (the) MKZ was one of the fastest-turning vehicles on Lincoln or Ford dealerships,” he says in a conference call with journalists and analysts. “We’re very encouraged by the early MKZ performance, which is the first of four new Lincolns coming in four years.”
Demand was particularly strong for the MKZ hybrid, which saw an 11-day turnover in April compared with 22 days for the standard model. Czubay says to keep pace, Ford will increase the production mix to 30% for the ’14 model, which begins production this summer.
The MKZ was one of only two Lincoln models to post a gain for the month, according to WardsAuto data. Deliveries of the MKS fullsize sedan plunged 45.0% compared with year-ago, while the MKT and MKX cross/utility vehicles fell 33.5% and 11.2%, respectively.
Only the Lincoln Navigator fullsize SUV posted an increase, up 21.5% to 680 units.
The MKZ has some catching up to do in the Lower Luxury segment in which it resides. Over the past 12 months, starting last March, the sedan’s average monthly sales rate has been 2,061 units, a far cry from the segment-leading BMW 3-Series, with 7,954, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, with 7,209.
Even within Ford’s own lineup, the MKZ underperformed, bested in April by the Mustang, with 7,751 deliveries, and Fiesta, with 6,080.
Ford’s overall April sales grew 13.0% compared with year-ago to 208,428 units, according to WardsAuto data.
The Escape CUV turned in its strongest April since it launched 13 years ago, up 46.0% to 25,826 units. Czubay says Escape retail sales, alone, soared 52% from like-2012, helping make the CUV the top-seller in its segment for the first-quarter.
F-Series deliveries jumped 18.3% from year-ago to 55,474, the best April sales result for the fullsize pickup since 2006 and the 21st straight monthly sales increase.
Czubay says F-Series sales are being driven primarily by replacement demand and an uptick in the housing market. Over the past two months, the model accounted for nearly 120,000 units, leading to questions whether Ford’s installed capacity can keep up with demand.
“We recognized fullsize pickups were going to grow and added capacity last year,” he says. “We’re building all the F-Series we can now, and we continue to monitor the situation.”
The Fusion midsize sedan, which posted an 18.7% increase in April to 26,722 units, also is facing capacity constraints. Days’ supply was just 40 in the month, according to WardsAuto data. Auto makers typically consider 60 days’ ideal.
Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico, assembly plant, where the Fusion is built, has “been working flat out for months,” Czubay says. “We’d like our inventory to be slightly more, but our dealers are very adaptable to working at the inventory levels they have.”
Capacity constraints should be alleviated when the Flat Rock, MI, assembly plant begins Fusion production this fall.
Ford ended April with 576,000 light vehicles in inventory, including 145,000 utility vehicles, 255,000 trucks and 176,000 cars, equating to 70 days’ supply.