Even Ford Motor Co. executives admit being surprised at how fast transaction prices on pickups keep rising.
Not that they’re complaining, of course. Ford execs are more than happy to find somewhere to stash all that money. (Though it could be awkward to show up at the UAW bargaining table in a few months with crumpled $100 bills falling out of their pockets.)
But Ford also knows the pricing gains are going to start slowing down soon.
“At some point, you’re going to see some sort of plateau,” Doug Scott, Ford’s truck group marketing manager, told analysts and reporters today. “The gravy train doesn’t go on forever.”
One reason, Scott said, is that the improving economy will start bringing truck owners who held off on buying a new one back into lower-priced end of the market. Since the recession, many truck buyers have been the type that doesn’t flinch at the $60,000-plus sticker price on a fully loaded F-150 Platinum.
In February, Scott said 73 percent of 2015 F-150s were either Platinum, King Ranch or Lariat. Platinum and King Ranch have higher starting prices than every Lincoln nameplate except the Navigator.
In contrast, those trims, which Ford refers to as “high series,” represented about 30 percent of 2014 F-150 sales.
Granted, the new aluminum-bodied F-150 just launched, and early buyers load up on expensive options far more than those who wait for the trucks to start stacking up on dealership lots. Ford is still ramping up production, with the “Job 1” ceremony scheduled for tomorrow in Kansas City, which was the second of its two F-150 plants to retool. Dealers won’t have a normal supply of the truck for a couple more months.
Ford also hasn’t started delivering the 2015 model to commercial and other fleet customers in large quantities. Those aren’t the type of buyers to splurge on the $1,695 chrome appearance package or fully appreciate the Platinum’s “unique genuine wood interior trim accents.”
“We can’t leave behind or ignore the more value-oriented end of the market,” Scott said. “The people that have been in market the last few years have been more affluent and therefore more high series-minded.”
For now, though, Ford is eagerly building all of the King Ranches and Platinums it can, and dealers have had no trouble finding customers to take them. And a vehicle that generates upwards of 90 percent of Ford’s automotive profits, according to a Morgan Stanley estimate, is hauling in even more gravy than usual.