DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. will increase the production mix of Lincoln MKZ Hybrids to 30 percent for the 2014 model year, from 20 percent now, to meet increased demand.
After a problem-plagued launch that delayed the car's arrival in showrooms, the MKZ sedan recovered in April with the biggest sales increase of any Ford Motor vehicle. MKZ sales more than doubled in April, topping the 4,000-unit mark for the first time and setting an all-time monthly sales record for the nameplate. Ford has heralded the MKZ as the first of a new generation of Lincolns geared for younger customers.
Overall, the automaker's sales grew 18 percent in April, to 211,984. Ford-brand sales rose 18 percent to 204,369 while Lincoln sales climbed 21 percent to 7,615.
Three drive gains
Three vehicles continued to drive the company's sales increase. Sales of the Ford F-series pickup rose 24 percent to 59,030, those of the Fusion mid-sized sedan jumped 24 percent to 26,722 and sales of the Escape crossover surged 52 percent to 25,826. Both the Fusion and Escape set April sales records while the F series had its best April since 2006.
Among Ford-brand vehicles, only the Taurus sedan, Flex crossover and Transit Connect saw sales declines.
The MKZ's sales strength did not rub off on other Lincoln models. The MKS dropped 44 percent to just 730, the MKX dropped 8 percent to 1,740 and the MKT dropped 31 percent to 453 units. The Navigator was the only other Lincoln to post a sales increase, rising 27 percent to 680.
MKZ: Strong on the coasts
Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said strong Lincoln sales in coastal areas helped to boost the MKZ.
"The fastest growth market for MKZ was the Los Angeles region where retail sales more than tripled with the MKZ hybrid leading the charge," he said in a conference call with reporters. In Los Angeles, the hybrid version represented about 60 percent of the vehicle's retail sales.
"We will be increasing hybrid mix to 30 percent to support our dealers particularly on the coasts" for the 2014 model, Czubay said. Production of 2014 models will begin this summer in Hermosillo, Mexico, he said.
Ford struggled through the first quarter to straighten out quality glitches with the MKZ that forced the company to ship MKZs from Hermosillo to its assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich., for additional inspections and repairs.
Many of those cars had been ordered by customers last summer and fall but not delivered. Czubay could not say what percent of April MKZ sales included cars that had already been ordered but not delivered.
Ford said it finished April with 575,000 vehicles in dealer inventory, or a 70-day supply, compared with 476,000 units or 66 days, a year earlier.