Ford posts best sales year since 2006; Lincoln tops 100,000

Ford Motor sold 7.8 percent more SUVs and crossovers last year than in 2014, while cars declined 0.9 percent.

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. achieved its best annual U.S. sales since 2006 and sold more Ford F-series pickups in December than in any other month in the past decade. The Lincoln brand surpassed 100,000 units for the first time since 2008.

Ford Motor’s light-vehicle sales rose 8.3 percent in December, to 237,606. For all of 2015, its sales increased 5.3 percent to 2.6 million, the automaker said.

Though its full-year performance didn’t earn the company any more market share, Ford did raise its average transaction price by more than $2,000 from 2014, to $35,700 last month. The average price paid for an F series jumped $2,500, to $43,000.

At more than 85,000 F series sold in December -- a 15 percent increase and the truck’s best monthly tally since August 2005 -- that’s nearly $3.7 billion generated by a single nameplate. Ford said fleet sales of the F series were up 23 percent last month because Ford was able to fill more bulk orders for the redesigned, aluminum-bodied F-150 that it had delayed in order to keep the retail pipeline full.

After being slowed early in the year by tight inventories as it ramped up F-150 production, Ford sold a total of 780,354 F-series pickups in 2015, a 3.5 percent gain. The F series remained the nation’s top-selling vehicle for a 34th consecutive year.

“We’re very pleased with F-series performance and look forward to building on that in 2016,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service.

Ford Motor sold 7.8 percent more SUVs and crossovers last year than in 2014, while cars declined 0.9 percent.

After the F series, Ford’s best-selling nameplate was the Escape, which set a record with 306,492 vehicles sold. The Explorer, up 19 percent to 249,251, had its best year since 2004. That was in spite of production constraints for both vehicles.

“Dealers are learning how to turn them at a very brisk rate, which is very good for the business,” LaNeve said.

In 2016, Ford’s ability to sell more pickups and utility vehicles may depend more on its ability to make enough than on demand for them.

The Escape, which is being freshened this spring, was held to a 0.1 percent increase for the year -- far less than other compact crossovers, but it won’t be able to build significantly more until the Lincoln MKC moves out of the Louisville Assembly Plant a few years from now. However, by discontinuing the Lincoln MKS later this year, Ford will be able to build more high-profit Explorers at Chicago Assembly.

Redesigned versions of the F-series Super Duty will go into production in the spring, but executives say it won’t disrupt production as much as with the F-150 last year. With both F-150 plants humming at full speed, inventories of that vehicle are plentiful.

“We feel really good about availability,” LaNeve said. “It’s always good to be short, to be frank -- I would rather be short than long in terms of inventory.”

Cars tough sell

Meanwhile, cars are proving a tough sell for Ford, as with much of the industry.

Sales for the year fell 22 percent for the Ford Taurus, 7.8 percent for the Focus and 2.2 percent for the Fusion. A freshened Fusion is expected to be unveiled at next week’s Detroit auto show.

In contrast, Mustang sales rose 48 percent in 2015, easily beating the Chevrolet Camaro for the first time since 2009.

At Lincoln, sales were up 12 percent in December and 7.1 percent on the year, to 101,227. Yet only two of its six nameplates -- the MKC and Navigator -- posted gains in 2015. December was the first 10,000-unit month for Lincoln in six years. A freshened MKZ and the new Continental sedan are on the way in late 2016.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com -- Follow Nick on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nickbunkley

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