DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. reported lower U.S. sales of cars, crossovers and pickups in July, and the Lincoln brand posted its first year-over-year decline in eight months.
Ford officials said retail sales fell 6 percent while fleet deliveries rose 6 percent. Total sales for the automaker were down 3 percent.
Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, said the company had a slow start to the month, coinciding with a “dramatic escalation” of incentives by General Motors. GM offered discounts of up to 20 percent off sticker price on pickups and other models before backing off July 9.
“Once it ended, our business returned to a much more planned level for us,” LaNeve said today on a conference call with analysts and reporters. “We feel like we’re going to carry some good momentum into August.”
LaNeve said he expects to see more competitive pressure on incentives as growth in the market slows or stops in the second half of the year. Last week, Ford reduced its estimate for total U.S. industry sales and warned that higher incentives and softening demand would hit profits in the third and fourth quarters.
“I think it’s an indication in a plateauing market that the major players are going to protect share,” LaNeve said of the GM incentives, without identifying GM by name. “It’s a more competitive market than we’ve experienced in the last five or six years. We’re going to be disciplined and competitive in our go-to-market plan.”
LaNeve said Ford is “fine tuning” its sales and marketing approaches and closely analyzing transaction data to use incentives more efficiently, but not making major changes to its strategy. Ford CFO Bob Shanks last week said the company would take several steps to increase profits in the second half of the year, including improved go-to-market strategies in the U.S. and China to bolster revenue and reduce costs.
In July, each of Ford’s five top-selling nameplates posted declines. The F series slipped 1 percent for the month, marking its first year-over-year drop since January. F-series sales are up 8.8 percent so far this year.
Sales of SUVs and crossovers fell 5.6 percent, the first decrease for that category since November. That includes losses of 10 percent for the Escape, as inventories of discounted 2016 models dwindled, and 18 percent for the Explorer. But Edge sales rose 4.9 percent and Expedition sales more than doubled.
The Mustang, up 13 percent, was the only Ford-brand car to outperform July 2015. Fusion sales fell 4.4 percent, and the Focus dropped 18 percent.
In contrast to the negative numbers across most other segments, Ford’s van sales rose 26 percent last month, including a 41 percent gain for the full-sized Transit.
Lincoln, after achieving a 13 percent gain in the first half of 2016 that made it one of the industry’s fastest-growing brands, posted a 4.6 percent decline in July.
LaNeve said Lincoln retail sales rose 2 percent, including a 30 percent retail increase for the redesigned MKX. Including fleet, total MKX sales were up 5.4 percent. Sales of the MKS sedan, which will be replaced by the Continental this fall, were down 43 percent.