DEARBORN - The extraordinarily harsh winter weather that gripped the majority of the nation throughout the month of January with record snowfalls and subzero temperatures put vehicle shopping into a deep freeze, according to Ford U.S. Sales Analyst Erich Merkle.
“Sales for Ford and the entire industry were down last month, largely due to inclement weather in some of our largest sales regions,” said Merkle, noting that Ford’s U.S. January sales decreased 7 percent and industry sales declined 3 percent versus last year. “We’ve had bad winter weather in January before but not like this where it’s been so cold and it encompassed so much of the country. When it’s below zero outside people don’t spend a lot of time on dealer lots.”
There was also some weakness in Ford’s U.S. retail sales, which declined a more modest 5 percent.
“We saw the weakness at the beginning of the month, with a strong surge through the middle of the month, but winter weather came back to bite us again at the end of January creating a weak end of month and sales close performance,” said Merkle.
Severe winter weather also impacted Ford’s January fleet sales, which were down 14 percent compared with last year, according to Merkle.
“We lost momentum on the fleet side of the business because we had some trouble delivering vehicles in January due to the bad weather. These sales will be made up in February, but it didn’t help us for January.” he said.
There were, however, some bright spots in January.
Despite the uncontrollable force of Mother Nature, retail sales of the Ford Escape were up 2 percent.
“Our retail sales for Escape were the best ever for the month of January,” said Merkle.
While overall Ford Fusion sales were off 8 percent in January, the vehicle performed very well in the Western region of the country, one of the few areas that had good car-buying weather.
“Fusion retail sales were up 17 percent in California,” said Merkle. “It was our best-ever January retail sales for Fusion in the Golden State and a big part of why our Fusion retail share of the midsize sedan segment is at an all-time high.”
Looking ahead to the rest of 2014, Merkle said he is cautiously optimistic.
“This year will be a little different for Ford,” he said. “We expect to see growth in sales for us as a company and the industry as a whole but not at the same rate that we experienced in 2012 and 2013.”
And though Ford will make history in 2014 with a record number of product launches Merkle says the company will likely not realize the sales benefits of those launches until 2015.
“You typically don’t see the benefits of new product in the same year that you launch it,” he explained. “There are run-outs of old products and production start-ups for new ones. And because of the timing of when the new vehicles are launched they won’t really help us from a sales perspective until next year.”