Ford sales slip 3% on softer F-series demand, drop in fleet

Soft F-series pickup sales and a 40 percent cutback in sales to rental fleets pushed Ford Motor Co.’s September sales down 3 percent from a year earlier, to 179,518 units. Overall fleet sales fell 14 percent to 42,878.

Ford-brand sales dropped 3 percent, and Lincoln sales rose 13 percent.

F-series pickup sales declined 1 percent in September as the company works through a complex transition from the outgoing 2014 model to the redesigned 2015 aluminum-body replacement of the Ford F-150.

While F-series sales eased, Ram pickup sales jumped 30 percent, and sales of Chevrolet Silverado pickups shot up 54 percent. The three manufacturers do not separate light-duty pickups from heavy-duty pickups in their sales reports.

‘A truck problem’

Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds.com, said: “Ford has a truck problem right now, and that’s not something you can say very often. But the fact is that Ford is sitting on the sidelines while its competition is engaging a plush market of willing truck buyers. It’s creating a lot more pressure on the 2015 F-150 to perform -- and perform well -- once it hits showroom floors.”

Ford began building F-150s at its Dearborn, Mich., truck plant last week after a month-long changeover to install new equipment in the body shop and on the assembly line.

“We started running sheet metal through the body shop last week,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, in an interview in San Antonio, where Ford is introducing the new F-150 to the media this week. Hinrichs said the changeover is on schedule and stock units will start arriving in dealerships in December.

Plant shutdowns

Ford makes F-150s at its Dearborn and Kansas City, Mo., plants, but the Dearborn plant was closed for most of September as the company tore out the old machinery and installed equipment to build the aluminum F-150.

In a staggered changeover, Ford is on schedule to begin conversion of the Kansas City plant to aluminum pickup production over the Christmas holidays. Hinrichs said the Kansas City ramp-up would last for about six weeks after the New Year.

SUVs and crossovers continued to be the best category for Ford, with sales up 2 percent in September. Car sales dropped 7 percent, and truck sales slid 3 percent.

The Fusion was the Ford brand’s only gainer on the car side, with sales up 9 percent to 21,693, its best September since its launch in 2005, the company said.

John Felice, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said California accounted for 20 percent of the Fusion’s retail gains and Texas accounted for 14 percent.

Losing ground

But the cars on either side of the Fusion in the size spectrum lost ground. The compact Focus dropped 8 percent, and the full-size Taurus, including its derivative, the Police Interceptor Sedan, 15 percent.

After a series of monthly gains, the Escape crossover dropped 4 percent in September.

Both of Lincoln’s car nameplates fell by double digits, but the brand’s truck sales jumped 65 percent, led by the MKC, which wasn’t on sale last year.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@autonews.com

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