DETROIT -- Sales gains in the pickup, utility and luxury segments weren’t enough to save Ford Motor Co. from weak retail and fleet performances on the car side as the automaker’s February sales fell 4 percent compared to a year ago.
Ford Motor’s car sales, continuing a years-long industry trend, tumbled 24 percent in February. The automaker’s retail sales dropped 3 percent while fleet fell 5 percent compared to the same time a year ago, when many of Ford’s sales to rental companies, government agencies and commercial businesses were front-loaded.
Despite the overall drop, executives were pleased with strong performances for the automaker’s profit-generating F-series pickups and utilities. Utility sales increased 5.9 percent, and truck sales rose 4.2 percent, including an 8.7 gain for the F series, the line’s best February since 2004.
“We continue seeing strong consumer demand for the highest-series Super Duty pickups and the all-new F-150 Raptor, plus greater availability of 2017 model year F-150s,” Mark LaNeve, vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement. “This drove a $3,600 increase in average transaction prices for F-Series last month alone, [and] Lincoln had a $2,100 increase, ultimately delivering an overall company transaction price increase of $1,900 per vehicle.”
Ford’s pickup sales came amid disciplined incentive spending, a contrast from one of its crosstown rivals.
LaNeve said incentives on Ford’s F series fell $330 last month to an average of $3,800 per truck.
“I think our performance is testimony that the segment isn’t entirely incentive driven,” LaNeve said.Car sales struggled almost across the board, despite a 6 percent gain in Fiesta sales. Mustang sales fell 17 percent last month, but it continues to lead the muscle-car race with the Chevy Camaro.
LaNeve said the industry’s overall car segment has fallen from about 52 percent of the market in 2010 to about 36 percent this month, according to Ford’s preliminary data.
“These numbers are not exclusive to Ford,” he said. “We’ve seen a structural shift in consumer buying behavior.”
That shift, LaNeve said, is good for Ford, because of its strong utility and pickup offerings.
The Expedition’s 48 percent jump paced Ford’s overall utility gains. Escape sales rose 16 percent, a February record for the nameplate.
Ford said it has a “very comfortable” 79-day supply of vehicles, although it noted its 65-day supply of utilities is a “little lean.”
Lincoln sales, buoyed by the new Continental flagship sedan, rose 8.8 percent in February. That gain included a 16 percent increase in car sales, and a 4.9 percent rise in utility sales.
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