DETROIT — Thanks to a blistering first-half pace, Ford Motor Co. might sell more big pickups in the U.S. this year than it ever has, shattering a 14-year-old record set at the height of the housing boom.
The automaker sold more than 450,000 of its F-series line — one every 35 seconds — from January through June. That's 4.2 percent more than in the first half of 2004, when it set an annual record of 939,511.
There's good reason to believe it can keep up the pace: Fifty-two percent of F-series sales typically occur in the second half of a year, when the new model year arrives and languishing inventory gets marked down.
Based on the first-half gain, Ford would sell more than 941,000 of the trucks in 2018, setting a new high-water mark four years into the F-150's product cycle and in a declining market. It might achieve that milestone despite redesigned models from its chief competitors and a fire at a supplier plant that halted production for more than a week in May.
"There's really nothing that's making this an easy feat," said Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific. "There's a lot of headwinds, and there's a lot of choice for consumers. I think there's a certain amount of envy everyone in the auto industry is having over the F-series' success this far into its life cycle."
A record sales year would be an impressive feat for the storied nameplate, which has been the country's best-selling pickup each year since the first Star Wars movie debuted in theaters in 1977. It also would validate the automaker's costly gamble this decade to switch from a steel body to aluminum, a decision that raised eyebrows and spurred attack ads from General Motors questioning the F-150's durability. GM and FCA US did not follow Ford's lead with the next generation of their pickups.
"We are heading into the second half with a strong position and look forward to the opportunity that is in front of us," Erich Merkle, Ford's U.S. sales analyst, said in a statement.