Ford's flat September gets a lift from Focus
With dealers building inventories of the redesigned 2013 Fusion, the Focus compact emerged as the sales star among Ford brand cars in September.
Focus sales rose 91 percent over the previous September to 19,736. The Focus was the third-best selling vehicle in Ford's lineup behind the F-series pickup and Escape crossover.
"With the depletion of the  Fusion, people are going to the Focus," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, speaking to journalists and analysts today.
The Fusion has outsold the Focus recently, but last month stocks of the 2012 Fusion were depleted and the automaker was still stocking the redesigned 2013 model.
Ford began shipping 2013 Fusions from its Hermosillo, Mexico, assembly plant to dealers in mid-September.
Higher fuel prices also boosted sales of the Fiesta subcompact and the C-Max Hybrid, a new nameplate, Czubay said. Fiesta sales, which had been sharply off in recent months, were down 1 percent in September. The C-Max Hybrid appeared on the charts for the first time with 969 units sold.
Overall, Ford sales were flat for the month, falling to 174,454 from 174,860 in September a year ago. SUVs were Ford's strongest segment, up 9 percent, while cars rose 2 percent and pickup sales dropped 8 percent. Through the first nine months of this year, Ford sales rose 5 percent to 1,685,068.
For September, Ford brand sales were flat at 167,652, while sales of the Lincoln luxury brand dropped 3 percent to 6,802 units.
Pickup sales dropped mainly because dealers are running out of the now discontinued Ranger. Ranger sales fell 99 percent from 7,154 units a year ago to just 93 units last month.
Sales of the F series rose 1 percent to 55,077 units. It was the F series' best September since 2007.
The average age of a pickup in the market is now about 11 years, Ford said.
"These vehicles are too darn old, frankly," said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford's chief economist. As consumers replace those pickups, the overall industry will benefit, she said.
SUVs were the strongest gainers for Ford during the month, up 9 percent, driven primarily by the Escape, up 15 percent, and the Explorer, up 19 percent.
About 95 percent of the 23,148 Escapes sold in September were 2013 models, said Erich Merkle, Ford sales analyst.
At Lincoln, MKZ sales rose 33 percent to 2,575 as customers picked up bargains on the outgoing 2012 model. A redesigned MKZ arrives about Dec. 1.Ford dealers had 450,000 units in inventory for a 62-day supply.
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