MAY U.S. SALES

Ford F series loses title as top-selling vehicle in May

Honda Civic sets new record of 53,299 sales

Ford announced an employee-pricing incentive for all 2008 F series trucks in June.
The Ford F-150 pickup truck has been dethroned in May as America’s favorite vehicle for the first time in a month since 1991 -- by four sedans.

According to sales figures released by automakers, Ford Motor Co. sold 42,973 F-series trucks in May, while Toyota Motor Corp. sold 52,826 Corollas and 51,291 Camrys.

The Honda Civic beat all vehicles with sales of 53,299 vehicles -- an all-time record for any month -- while the Honda Accord raked in another 43,728 in sales, according to American Honda Motor Co.

The last time a car outsold the F series was October 1991.

Ford responded today by putting an employee pricing incentive on all 2008 F series trucks, effective immediately through June 30. The F-series starts at $17,900 for the base model F-150 and climbs to $48,165 for the giant, fully loaded, diesel-powered F-450. Those prices exclude shipping charges.

Jim Farley, Ford group vice president for marketing and communications, said the loss of the F series’ title for the month was a “significant development.”

“But it’s not surprising, given the fuel price,” Farley said. “That’s just a sign of the times. I think May has been a watershed month.”

Toyota said Corolla sales rose 12.4 percent in May, but were down 9.5 percent for the first five months compared with the same period a year ago. Camry sales have been flat.

A structural shift

“The all-new Corolla really found its stride this month,” Toyota Motor Sales President Jim Lentz said in a statement. “Launched amid soaring fuel prices and economic uncertainty, Corolla strikes a sweet spot for buyers seeking refinement in addition to fuel efficiency and affordability.”

Ford CEO Alan Mulally said the fact that cars are outselling trucks is further evidence that the industry is undergoing a change in consumer preference.

“We really believe we are seeing a structural shift with the fuel prices going through the $3.40-to-$3.60” range. It’s interesting that a lot of others are saying the same thing now,” Mulally told reporters Monday, June 2, at a dinner in Washington.

“So I think we’re seeing a structural shift where, with the prices being high in the United States, we’re seeing exactly what happened in Europe a number of years ago, where the customers are going to make economic decisions, and they’re going to move toward smaller and medium-sized vehicles.”

Honda said Civic sales rose 28.3 percent in May and 18.3 percent for the year to date. Accord sales increased 31.9 percent in May and 6.6 percent for the year to date, according to Honda's preliminary figures.

"The dramatic increase in car sales appears to be one of the most profound shifts in automotive buying patterns in more than a decade," Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda, said in a statement.

"Record sales of the Honda Civic clearly demonstrate an accelerated trend toward fuel efficiency."

Amy Wilson, Andrew Grossman, and Philip Nussel contributed to this report.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com

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