Ford scores biggest gain since 2010

U.S. deliveries of three Ford crossovers -- the Escape, Edge and Explorer -- jumped more than 30 percent each last month.

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. achieved its largest year-over-year U.S. sales increase in almost five years, posting a 23 percent gain for September.

Sales of Ford F-series pickups rose 16 percent, and deliveries of three Ford crossovers -- the Escape, Edge and Explorer -- jumped more than 30 percent each. Mustang sales tripled in September and are now up 61 percent on the year.

“It was good from beginning to end -- one of those really special, strong months,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said on a conference call with analysts and reporters. “We seem to have performed very well relative to the industry.”

The F series came fewer than 400 units short of topping sales of 70,000 for a second consecutive month. Retail sales rose 28 percent for the F series overall and 31 percent for the F-150, LaNeve said. Transaction prices for the F series have begun leveling out -- they were up $2,100 year-over-year, compared with a $3,600 rise in June -- as the automaker has been able to divert more of its inventories to more cost-conscious fleet buyers.

Inventories of the F-150 remain below the 120,000-unit level that LaNeve said was normal for the truck, despite earlier assurances that they would reach that point by the end of September. He said Ford started the month with about 91,000 F-150s and ended it with about 100,000 units.

LaNeve said Ford was optimistic that it would resolve a stalemate with UAW members who build the F-150 in Kansas City, Mo., and are threatening to strike as soon as Sunday, and he declined to discuss any contingency plans.

UAW Local 249, which represents more than 7,000 Ford workers at the plant, has said it is unable to settle a number of safety and work-rule issues in its local contract with the automaker.

“We work really hard to avoid any disruption,” LaNeve said.

Lincoln posted a 20 percent increase and its best September volume in eight years, with all six nameplates performing better than September 2014. The newly redesigned MKX surged 34 percent, beating the smaller MKC by 97 units. Lincoln sales are now up 9.1 percent on the year, while the Ford brand is up 4.5 percent through September.

Among the few negatives was the Ford Focus, with sales down 13 percent for the month and 7 percent on the year. Its September decline contrasted with a 15 percent gain for the larger Fusion.

The Ford brand today said it is starting a new marketing campaign for its car lineup, whose sales are down 0.3 percent this year despite the Mustang’s big gain. Without offering a specific explanation for the Focus’ decline, LaNeve said Ford was “delighted with” the Fusion’s performance in September and is working to stoke car sales more.

“We’ve seen customers moving from the passenger car category into trucks,” LaNeve said. “Overall, that’s a very good trend for Ford Motor Co.”

Ford achieved its best September for pickups since 2006 and for utility vehicles since 2003.

Van sales surged 65 percent from a year ago, when the Transit was new on the market.

Ford said it has sold about 733,000 vehicles with EcoBoost engines this year, 45 percent more than a year ago and already a new calendar-year record with three months to go.

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