After a weak '12, Ford looks ahead
Mulally's product blitz positions the brand for a big year
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. finished 2012 with a 5 percent sales increase. But industrywide sales grew 13 percent, so Ford lagged behind many major rivals and lost market share for the second year in a row.
Ford's 2012 market share was 15.5 percent, the lowest since 2008, when it hit 14.4 percent.
The good news is that as 2013 begins, Ford finally should be in a position to realize the benefits of all the money it invested in new products during the recession under CEO Alan Mulally's global One Ford plan. In 2012 Ford launched redesigned versions of two of its four biggest sellers: the Escape compact crossover and Fusion mid-sized sedan. Both ride on global platforms.
Here's a rundown of the 2012 results, and 2013 outlook, for some of Ford's critical new vehicles.
Fusion: The new Fusion, widely praised by many reviewers, is still in the launch phase and has yet to hit its stride in the market. Sales of the Fusion dropped 3 percent in 2012 as Ford phased out the old model to make way for the redesigned 2013 version. The company is so confident about the appeal of the 2013 Fusion that it's adding production at a second factory, in Flat Rock, Mich., in the second half of the year.
Escape: The Escape compact SUV notched its all-time record sales year in 2012 with a 3 percent increase to 261,008 units, making it second in the Ford lineup in unit sales to the F-series pickup. The Escape continued to sell well despite four recalls.
Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said the Escape returned to its pre-recall sales levels after Ford in early December recalled Escapes with 1.6-liter EcoBoost engines to modify the engine software.
C-Max: Ford introduced a third major vehicle in 2012: the C-Max Hybrid, built on Ford's global C platform, which it shares with the Focus.
The C-Max has exceeded Ford's expectations so far with sales of 13,309 since the fourth-quarter launch.
But questions about claimed mpg figures could haunt Ford's first hybrid-only nameplate. In December the EPA said it would review claims by Consumer Reports that the C-Max and Fusion hybrids do not live up to Ford's claim of 47 combined mpg.
Focus: After a slow start following its 2011 redesign, Focus sales soared 40 percent in 2012, making it by far the fastest-growing Ford-brand light vehicle.
The Focus passed the Fusion to claim third place on the Ford sales chart behind the F-series pickup and the Escape.
The automaker's only other vehicles to post stronger sales gains in 2012 than the industry's 13 percent were the Ford Mustang, up 18 percent; the Ford Explorer, up 21 percent; and the Lincoln MKT, up 41 percent.
F series: The F-series pickup continued its run as the best-selling vehicle in America.
In 2012, Ford sold 645,316 units, up 10 percent.
Lincoln: The automaker's luxury brand continues to struggle. Lincoln sales dropped 4 percent to 82,150.
That means the Ford Mustang pony car, with sales of 82,995, outsold the entire Lincoln brand.
Lincoln dealers are eagerly awaiting the 2013 MKZ, which is just now arriving in showrooms, later than most dealers had hoped.
The MKC compact crossover, which will be introduced at the Detroit auto show this month, isn't likely to arrive in dealerships until a year from now.
2013 prognosis: Under Mulally, Ford has embarked on an ambitious plan to be an industry leader in fuel economy and technology.
If Ford can put its recent launch and quality problems in the rear-view mirror and straighten out balky electronics systems such as MyFord Touch, the company can reap the rewards of Mulally's ambitious and money-saving One Ford global platform plan.
This is the year to prove whether the plan not only saved money but produced vehicles that will increase Ford's market share.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.