Ford warns of more U.S. declines as F-150 ramp-up begins

Ford: Working to maintain a “delicate balance” with its pickup incentives until the redesigned 2015 F-150, pictured, is more widely available to avoid running low.

UPDATED: 12/2/14 4:45 pm ET - adds details

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. lost U.S. market share for a fourth consecutive month in November and warned that its sales would likely continue to decline for at least several months as it ramps up production of the redesigned F-150 pickup.

Ford sales fell 2 percent from November 2013 but were up 2 percent excluding the F-series. The company began shipping the 2015 F-150 to dealers about a week before Thanksgiving and has delivered “a handful” of them to customers so far, its chief sales analyst, Erich Merkle, said.

John Felice, Ford’s vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, said inventories of the outgoing F-150 remain sufficient. But Felice said that officials are still working to maintain a “delicate balance” with incentives until the new version is more widely available to avoid running low.

He said Ford isn’t concerned about introducing the 2015 truck, which makes extensive use of aluminum to reduce weight and increase fuel economy, at a time when U.S. gasoline prices are at their lowest level in four years.

“The fundamentals are strong in full-size pickups,” Felice said on a conference call with analysts and reporters. “People still want great fuel economy and capability ... regardless of whether it’s $2 gas or $4 gas.”

Ford’s U.S. market share fell to 14.3 percent last month from 15.3 percent in November 2013. For all of 2014, Ford’s share is 15 percent, down from 15.9 percent in the first 11 months of last year.

The company's U.S. share has declined year over year every month in 2014 except July.

The F-150 wasn’t the only Ford nameplate to have a down month, even with the rest of the industry on track to record its best November performance in more than a decade. Sales of Ford’s cars fell 6 percent, which every car model posting a decline except for the Mustang and Police Interceptor Sedan. Sales of the Mustang, which was redesigned earlier this year, rose 62 percent.

In contrast, sales of utility vehicles rose 15 percent, including a 22 percent gain for the Escape.

Ford’s Lincoln brand posted a 21 percent increase from November 2013, attributable entirely to the new MKC crossover. Sales of Lincoln vehicles other than the MKC were 11 percent lower.

Ford sales are now down less than 1 percent through the first 11 months of the year.

Ford said its fleet deliveries rose 3 percent in November and accounted for 24 percent of the month’s sales, up from 23 percent a year ago. Year to date, fleet sales have been 28 percent of Ford’s total volume, vs. 29 percent in the same period of 2013.

Merkle said the declines in car sales are largely the result of cutbacks in deliveries of those models to fleet buyers. “At retail, we’ve actually performed pretty well,” he said.

He also said Ford had a 79-day supply of vehicles in stock, down from 88 days at the end of October and 89 days a year ago.

November marked Ford’s return to the top of the full-size van segment, with the new Transit outselling General Motors’ Chevrolet Express by 373 units. The Transit went on sale in July, replacing the E-series, which had been the top-selling large van for 35 years.

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