Ford Motor Co.’s fortunes appear to be on the upswing as it turns in its best monthly sales performance of the year in June, despite a volatile U.S. market in which competitors are offering deep discounts as they attempt to shed brands.
“As we’ve said before, we expect to see a lot of volatility,” Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, George Pipas, tells journalists and analysts during a conference call.
“There are some things we’ve seen never in the history of the industry,” he says. “There are dealers being terminated quickly and brands liquidated, but all our efforts to this point are to build a business model that sustains profitable growth.
“Old models, including extreme discounting, have not proven very successful,” he adds. “We’re optimistic we can compete in this volatile market.”
Ford’s combined fleet and retail deliveries in June were down 13.6%, on a daily basis (25 selling days vs. 24 in like-2008), compared with year-ago, to 153,210 units. Ford’s retail sales, alone, fell 8%, compared with prior-year.
Ford’s overall U.S. market share in June hit the upper 16% range, up 3 percentage points compared with year-ago, marking the eighth time in the last nine months Ford has notched an increase, Pipas says. Its retail share was 13% for the month, up from 10.5% in like-2008.
The auto maker’s fleet mix for the month was 37.0% vs. prior-year’s 39.0%.
Industry-wide, Pipas pegs the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for June at about 10 million units.
While Ford’s overall monthly sales decline was lower than previous months, there were few models that posted significant year-over-year increases. Among the exceptions was the Ford Fusion midsize sedan, which saw 16,503 deliveries in June for a 7.6% gain over year-ago.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid also made a strong showing in the month, with sales of 2,058 units. Ford’s hybrid vehicles, which include the Fusion, Ford Escape, Mercury Milan and Mariner, combined for 3,649 deliveries, up 91% compared with prior year-ago, setting a June sales record.
The Ford Flex cross/utility vehicle also had a record month with 4,784 deliveries.
Ford’s F-Series pickup sales dropped 7.6% to 34,252, but transaction prices exceeded those of the previous model by more than $6,000, says Jim Farley, vice president-marketing and communications.
The bottom line for the second-quarter is that “Ford’s overall average transaction prices increased more than double the industry average,” he says.
Despite rising fuel prices in many parts of the country, the Ford Focus small car saw deliveries plummet 33.0%, compared with year-ago, to 12,573 units.
Sales of the venerable Ford Mustang tumbled 33% to 7,632. The Mustang’s decline coincided with the Chevrolet Camaro’s debut. Camaro deliveries totaled 9,320.
The auto maker’s SUV sales continued to suffer, with the Explorer down 27.0% to 5,219, and sister vehicle the Mercury Mountaineer off 60.3% to a mere 430 units. However, sales of the fullsize Expedition SUV rose 2.8% to 3,862.
Although Ford executives generally are pleased with the company’s June performance, Farley says certain regions of the country contributed more than others. “Our Great Lakes region was flat year-over-year,” he says, noting the Central U.S. also showed no significant rise in sales.
“Areas where we see the most weakness (are) the East coasts, especially New York, but Boston was up,” Farley says. “And in the West, especially Los Angeles and Phoenix, both were down 20%-30% for us. We’re seeing very dramatic change in pace of sales by geography.”
Farley has high hopes for the new U.S.-government backed Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program, which provides incentives up to $4,500 for consumers scrapping used vehicles rated at 18 mpg (13 L/100 km) for new cars that achieve at least 22 mpg (11 L/100 km), or light trucks capable of 18 mpg or more.
“It’s a real win-win for customers, the economy and the environment,” he says. “For Ford, it comes at a good time to showcase all our new products and our fuel-economy leadership in core products.”
Although key competitors are planning to increase consumer incentives in the coming months, Farley says Ford will hold steady, noting the auto maker has been able to boost residual values without relying on costly incentives.
Ford also has improved its image in the eyes of consumers, Farley says. “We just received brand-tracking results we typically don’t share, and they register all-time highs. We’ve seen a 17% improvement in favorable opinion about Ford products, and brand consideration is up 13%.”
Meanwhile, Ford’s Volvo Car subsidiary had a mixed showing in June, with car sales falling 10.0% to 4,290 units and CUV deliveries climbing 8.6% to 2,752.
Ford ended June with a 343,000-unit inventory that included 119,000 cars and 224,000 trucks, marking an 8,000-unit reduction from May.