Ford's Feb. sales rise 14%, led by Focus, F series
The Focus compact was the second-best selling Ford vehicle in February.
DETROIT -- As fuel prices soared, sales of the Ford Focus compact car more than doubled in February to 23,350 units. Focus was the second-best selling Ford vehicle in February, trailing only the perennial leader, the F-series pickup, which jumped 26 percent to 47,273.
Paced by those two vehicles, Ford-brand sales rose 14 percent in February to 171,732. Lincoln sales rose 16 percent to 6,912, leaving Ford Motor Co. sales up 14 percent to 178,644.
This was the strongest February for Focus since 2000. Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, said California was the hottest state for Focus with sales there surging 123 percent.
"No other vehicle contributed more to Ford's sales growth," he said. But the soaring cost of gasoline did not help the other small car in Ford's lineup: Sales of the Fiesta subcompact dropped 12 percent for the month to 5,518.
Erich Merkle, Ford's chief sales analyst, said Fiesta's drop reflected very strong sales of 6,270 in February 2011.
"When you combine Fiesta and Focus, they're up 68 percent. We enjoyed our best small car share since 2003," he said.
Jim Seavitt, president of Village Ford in Dearborn, Mich., said Focus helped push February sales at his dealership up 50 percent over a year ago.
"They put strong retail money on Focus," including $2,000 in the Detroit area, he said. "It got that car rolling and we needed to get that car rolling. We're going to be short on Fusion because of the changeover" to the 2013 model later this year.
Gasoline prices increased 20 percent, or 35 cents per gallon, from the year-earlier level to a national average of $3.58 per gallon, Ford economist Jenny Lin said.
Two of Ford's biggest-selling vehicles are due for major redesigns later this year: the Escape crossover and Fusion mid-sized sedan. Escape sales increased 4 percent to 18,666, the vehicle's second-strongest February ever, while Fusion sales dropped 6 percent to 21,773, the second decline in a row.
Merkle said last year was a record February for the Fusion and this February the second-best month.
"Mid-sized sedans are performing very well in this environment," he said.
Lincoln sales were paced by increases of 40 percent for the MKZ sedan, to 2,478, and 33 percent for the MKX crossover, to 2,168.
Ford said its dealers were holding 491,000 vehicles on their lots at the end of February, or a 68-day supply at current sales rates. That is up from a 63-day supply in February 2011.
Fleet sales accounted for 32 percent of total Ford Motor sales: 15 percent rental, 14 percent commercial and 3 percent government.
Czubay said the automaker's second-quarter plans call for 730,000 vehicles to be produced, up 3 percent from a year earlier. Of that, 270,000 are cars, 206,000 are SUVs and crossovers, and 254,000 are pickups and vans.
First-quarter production plans are unchanged from plans released a month earlier, at 675,000. That also is up 3 percent from the year-earlier quarter.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.