Ford Motor Co. said its first-quarter U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 12 percent, which was the biggest decline among the Detroit 3. Sales dropped 13 percent for its F-Series pickups, an outlier in a segment that otherwise remained strong as the industry was decimated by the coronavirus.
The F-Series, the top-selling pickup line in the country, suffered a rough March retail performance after gains in January and February, a Ford executive told Automotive News. But the biggest factor in its decline from a record first quarter in 2019 was an expected reduction in fleet sales.
"GM and FCA were incredibly aggressive on incentives early in the year, and our price per unit widened dramatically," said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service. "We believe we've maintained leadership and have a healthy position in the market. I'm not overly concerned about any gap there for the long term."
Ford is preparing to introduce a redesigned F-150 later this year.
Overall, Ford delivered 514,614 light vehicles from January through March this year, down from 586,956 in the first quarter of 2019.
Sales were down 36 percent for sedans, 13 percent for crossovers and SUVs and 4.9 percent for pickups and vans.
Sales by the Lincoln luxury brand rose 2.3 percent in the quarter on the back of the new Aviator crossover. The Continental was the only Lincoln nameplate to post a year-over-year sales gain, up 15 percent.
Ford no longer breaks out monthly sales numbers, but LaNeve said the automaker's sales in January and February were strong. That all changed around March 10 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sales have been hampered by a number of states issuing stay-at-home orders that in effect bar retailers from selling new vehicles.
LaNeve said roughly one-third of Ford's U.S. dealers can both sell and service vehicles, while about half have been forced to close their showrooms but have kept service centers open. Of the dealers that can continue to sell, more than 90 percent are offering virtual sales and remote delivery.
LaNeve said Ford expects sales to fall in the second quarter, but it's too early to say whether the crisis will lead to full-year declines.
Brands: Ford, down 13%; Lincoln, up 2.3%
Notable nameplates: Ford F-Series, down 13%; Transit, up 16%; Explorer, down 9.1%; Escape, down 21%; Mustang, up 6.8%; Lincoln Navigator, down 14%; Continental, up 15%
Incentives: $3,808, down $400 from a year earlier, ALG says
Average transaction price: $41,203 per vehicle, up $2,015 from a year earlier, according to ALG
Fleet mix: N/A
Inventory: 100-day supply
Quote: "At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in these unprecedented times," LaNeve said in a statement. "Our dealers and employees have jumped into action to support health care workers, their communities and millions of our customers. Our Ford team is working around the clock on everything from building health care equipment, assisting our dealership network and providing our customers peace of mind through deferred vehicle payments. I have never been more proud of our team."
Did you know? The Transit's 36,836 first-quarter sales were its best since it launched in 2014. Ford expects sales of the van to remain strong through the coronavirus crisis because of demand from health care workers and first responders.