DEARBORN – Call it the battle for the “super segment.”
Ford’s plan for growth in the United States is centered around four key vehicle segments: subcompact, compact cars, small utility vehicles and midsize sedans – together, what Ford calls the super segment.
These four vehicle segments, taken as a whole, represent just over 50 percent of total new vehicle sales in the U.S. As recently as 2004, super segment sales were only 35 percent of the market. Ford expects more growth in the super segment, as baby boomers continue to downsize their vehicle purchases and first-time millennial buyers enter the market. Combined, baby boomers and millennials account for more than 160 million people in the U.S.
Two of the four groups in the super segment are of particular interest – small utilities and sedans. Two-thirds of all buyers shop the Escape and Fusion when they first come into a Ford dealership.
“The super segment is where Ford plans to grow in North America,” said Amy Marentic, group marketing manager, Global Small and Medium Cars. “Escape and Fusion have gotten off to very strong starts since being all-new last year, and we expect continued strong interest in both.
“We’re encouraged that we have very new products across the lineup,” she added, “two of which – Focus and Fiesta – are best-selling vehicles worldwide.”
Combined sales of Escape and Fusion totaled 51,985 vehicles in February 2013, edging out combined sales for Toyota Camry and RAV4 (44,599 sales) and Honda Accord and CR-V (48,667 sales). Escape has been the best-selling small utility in the U.S. for the past two months.
By heavily reinvesting in the car portfolio since the middle of the last decade, Ford has been able to build market share. From January through September of last year, Focus was the best-selling vehicle in the world (end-of-year data from all regions have not yet been reported), while Fiesta was No. 5 in global sales and the best-selling subcompact car in the world.
The combination of the newest lineup of super segment vehicles and increasingly competitive, fuel-efficient passenger cars is working: Ford’s brand share of the super segment is running at a record 12.7 percent through the first two months of the year, more than double its share in 2005. From 2005 to 2012, Ford brand sales in the super segment were up 123 percent.
Retail sales of Ford’s super segment vehicles nationwide are up 33 percent in the first two months of 2013, with strongest growth coming from the West, up 56 percent, and the Southeast, which reported a 38 percent increase.
Conquest sales are another indicator of success. Defined as the percentage of owners leaving another brand for Ford, conquest rates range from 54 percent on Focus, 52 percent on Escape and 51 percent on Fusion, all the way up to 63 percent on Fiesta and 67 percent for Fusion Hybrid. More than half of Ford sales in these four segments are conquest sales.
Ford also is outpacing overall industry growth in hybrids, which is included in the super segment. Last month, Ford’s hybrid and EV sales captured 17 percent of the segment, up from 5 percent in February 2012.
Ford’s small cars are helping the company grow as well. Year-to-date Fiesta retail sales are up 24 percent from a year ago while Focus is up 3 percent. Year-to-date retail sales of Fiesta, Focus and C-MAX in California, the biggest small car state in the country, are up 43 percent this year, in addition to a stellar 54 percent sales increase last year.