Ford drops 8%; bad weather hits key regions

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DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said the poor weather and arctic temperatures that hammered its strongholds in the nation's midsection and Northeast took a bite out of the company's sales in January.

An increase in the West, which was spared much of the bad weather, failed to offset double-digit percentage retail losses in the Great Lakes region and Northeast, Ford said.

Overall, Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales dropped 8 percent for the month to 153,494 units. Ford brand dropped 9 percent to 147,521 while Lincoln increased 43 percent.

"Given the difficult weather in our largest sales regions, we are fortunate to have held in at retail as well as we did," said John Felice, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a statement.

Ford said the weather even slowed its best-selling F-series pickups, which fell 1 percent for the month to 46,536 units. Erich Merkle, Ford U.S. sales analyst, said the decline was in line with an overall dip in full-sized pickup sales from about a 12.5 percent share of the U.S. vehicle market a year ago to about 11.5 percent in January this year.

Among Ford's biggest losers was the C-Max Hybrid, which tumbled 48 percent for the month to 1,418. Merkle said overall industry sales of electrified vehicles had declined to 3.5 percent of the market, the lowest share since August 2012. Sales of electrified vehicles peaked at about 4 percent of the industry in August 2013, he said.

The Fusion sedan, Ford's second-biggest seller after the F series, dropped 8 percent to 20,717. The Fusion is fetching transaction prices of about $24,000, at the high end for the segment, Merkle said. Felice said the Fusion hit its highest retail share of about 12 percent of the mid-sized sedan segment. Focus sales dropped 26 percent to 12,003 units.

Ford's Lincoln luxury brand provided a bright spot. Two vehicles were responsible for Lincoln's January increase: the MKZ sedan, with U.S. sales up 368 percent to 2,122 units, and the MKX crossover, with U.S. sales up 36 percent to 2,437 units. For Lincoln, that represents the best January in four years, the company said. But Lincoln still accounts for just 4 percent of total Ford Motor sales.

"We fully realize we still have a long way to go as this luxury brand reinvention will be measured in years, not months," Felice said.

Ford said the weather hit its fleet sales particularly hard -- down 14 percent for the month.

"It was a weak fleet month," Felice said. He added that Ford expects to make up for the lost orders in the spring selling season.

Ford retail sales did slightly better, down 5 percent to113,721 units.

The weather contributed to a big increase in Ford's gross stock of vehicles, including those at dealerships and in transit. Ford finished the month with 659,000 vehicles in stock, or a 111-day supply at current selling rates. That compares with 639,000 vehicles, or a 73-day supply, in December and 567,000 vehicles, or an 89-day supply, in January 2013.

Merkle said Ford is not concerned about the higher inventory levels going into spring.

"January is a very weak sales month. It will make the days supply look higher than other months of the year," he said.

According to Kelley Blue Book, Ford transaction prices for January averaged $34,840, up 1 percent from December 2013 and up 4 percent from January 2013.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@crain.com.


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