DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. said demand for its vehicles in parts of the country not buried by snow was "very robust" last month, though total Ford sales fell 6 percent from a year ago.
In addition to keeping consumers away from dealerships across the Midwest and Northeast, winter storms caused Ford to delay fleet orders for about 10,000 vehicles into March, Ford said. Had those deliveries been made on schedule, Ford would have posted a 1 percent decline for February.
"The majority of our decline was fleet-driven," Ford's U.S. sales analyst, Erich Merkle, said on a conference call with analysts and reporters.
Ford's fleet sales dropped 10 percent year-over-year in February, while retail sales fell 4 percent. Even with the 10,000-unit delay, fleet accounted for 32 percent of Ford's sales last month.
Sales of Ford-brand cars were down 17 percent, including declines of 14 percent for the Fusion, 24 percent for the Focus and 42 percent for the C-Max. Ford said fleet sales of the Fusion were down 30 percent.
Meanwhile, Fusion retail sales rose 25 percent in California to 2,038, surpassing the 2,000-unit threshold for the first time ever and accounting for 9 percent of total U.S. Fusion sales.
Ford said dealerships reported stronger retail demand across the lineup as the month progressed, with business spiking during the periods between snowstorms.
"As soon as they weren't impeded by some of the weather issues, we saw very robust demand," said John Felice, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service. "We expect, heading into the month of March, a very solid spring market."
F-series sales rose 3 percent to 55,862, which Ford said was the pickup's best February in eight years.
The Lincoln brand posted a 36 percent increase, with sales of the MKZ sedan more than tripling to 3,044. The rest of Lincoln's lineup was down a combined 8 percent.
Inventories rose to 697,000 units, compared with 659,000 at the end of January and 575,000 a year ago. But on a days' supply basis, Ford Motor improved to 91 days from 111 days at the end of January. A year ago, Ford had a 71-day supply.