COLOGNE, Germany – While Ford of Europe’s overall new vehicle sales declined in March, its success in gaining profitable retail sales increased.
Across its key markets, Ford gained a retail market share of 9.5 per cent in March, up 0.7 percentage points on a year ago and the company’s highest monthly retail share for three years. For the first quarter, Ford’s retail share increased by 0.2 percentage points to 8.4 per cent.
The improvement was largely driven by sales of new models, including Fiesta, Kuga, B-MAX and Focus. The new Ranger pickup and Transit Custom van drove commercial vehicle share higher.
“We are not quite seeing green shoots of an economic recovery yet, but we are seeing some green shoots for Ford in Europe now five months after we launched a comprehensive transformation plan covering product, brand and cost,” said Stephen Odell, chairman and CEO, Ford of Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“A key piece of our plan was the decision to focus on retail sales and significantly reducing sales to rental fleets and, especially, short cycle sales. This shift is critical to margins, residual values and the health of the Ford brand.”
Ford’s overall vehicle market share declined in March by 0.4 percentage points, and in the first quarter by 0.7 percentage points, primarily reflecting the decision to reduce short cycle and daily rental registrations, and limited availability of large passenger cars due to production stoppages at Ford’s plant in Genk, Belgium. Normal production resumed at the plant last month after Ford reached an agreement with hourly employees on separation terms related to the proposed closure of the plant at the end of 2014.
Ford sold 267,000 vehicles in the first quarter in its traditional 19 European markets and 323,000 vehicles across all 51 markets it which it operates. Best-selling models were Fiesta, Focus, Transit, C-MAX, B-MAX, and Kuga. Ford remained the No. 2 brand overall for March and in the first quarter (Euro 19 markets).
“The reason we have been able to make this shift toward healthier retail sales is the investment in new product we have made even in the toughest times, just as we did in North America during the last recession,” Odell said. “In the past few months alone we have launched new Fiesta, Fiesta ST, B-MAX, Kuga and Transit Custom, giving us a very fresh showroom.”
Fiesta retail sales share in its segment rose 1.2 percentage points in March and 0.4 percentage points for the first quarter, and order take was up 8 per cent versus the first quarter last year.
Focus retail share in its segment increased by 1.6 percentage points in March and 0.4 percentage points for the first quarter. The new B-MAX small multi-purpose vehicle sold 18,500 in the first quarter in the Euro 19 markets.
Ford recently announced plans to increase Kuga production in Valencia to meet demand. Ford is now on track to build more than 100,000 units of Kuga production for the first time this year.
New products are also driving commercial vehicle sales. Ford sold 44,000 commercial vehicles in the first quarter (Euro 19 markets). Sales of the new Ranger increased by 65 per cent in the first quarter. Ford commercial vehicle share rose by 0.8 percentage points to 10.9 in March and 9.3 per cent in the first quarter. Order takes of Ford’s commercial vehicles are up 8 per cent versus the first quarter 2012.
In Britain, where Ford has held car sales leadership for 36 consecutive years, retail car sales grew by 0.8 per cent for the year-to-date. Ford was the best-selling vehicle brand in the UK in March and the first quarter, with sales volume up slightly and a market share of 15 per cent for both periods. The UK, Germany, France, Italy and Russia were Ford’s top five markets in Europe both in March and year-to-date.
“Over time, our One Ford approach of investing in product, matching production to the real demand, focusing on healthy retail sales and building our brand will transform our business in Europe,” Odell said.
In Europe’s principal 19 markets, industry-wide sales totalled 1,493,200 units, a decline of 10.6 per cent, in March. Ford sold 130,500 vehicles, a decline of 14.3 per cent. In the first three months of the year, industry-wide sales totalled 3,441,900, down 10.3 per cent. Ford sold 267,000 units, down 17.9 per cent. Ford’s market share in March was 8.74 per cent, a decline of 0.4ppts; year-to-date it was 7.74 per cent, down 0.7ppts.