DEARBORN - Ford is firing on all cylinders with a product portfolio that is scoring strong sales across the board, making the current recovery much unlike those of past years, according to Ford U.S. Sales Analyst Erich Merkle.
“What’s different from the economic recoveries of the past for Ford is that we’re able to take advantage of this trend toward smaller vehicles while still fully participating in the full-size pickup truck segment,” he said. “This isn’t just a one-horse town of trucks anymore.”
Ford’s U.S. sales were up 18 percent for the month of April versus the same time last year – the best April since 2007 with all vehicle segments posting double-digit gains. Car sales were up 21 percent; utilities and trucks were both up 16 percent.
Perhaps even more significant, says Merkle, is where the growth came from.
“Our retail sales growth came predominantly from the regions of the West and Southeast, which were up 35 and 28 percent respectively,” he said. “These areas have historically been a stronghold for Japanese automakers, and now we’re going into those markets with products that directly compete against the foreign brands of Toyota and Honda.”
The Ford Fusion is a great example. It had a record April sales month, posting an overall increase of 24 percent over last year. And Fusion retail sales in the West were double what they were last year, and in the Southeast they were up 70 percent – the fastest growth regions of the country for the all-new Fusion.
“We’re growing at a phenomenal rate in these regions of the country with a great product in the mid-size sedan market,” said Merkle. “These are clearly markets that have been dominated in the past by Honda and Toyota.”
Consumer demand for the Fusion is so high that Ford is having difficulty keeping up the supply.
“We’re doing everything we can to get Fusions out to the market as fast as we can,” said Merkle. “The vehicles are turning very quickly on dealer lots.”
Merkle says Ford will bring in a new manufacturing line at the Flat Rock, Mich. assembly plant in the fall to help address the issue.
Another vehicle that did extremely well in the month of April is the Lincoln MKZ, which posted its best-ever sales month with just over 4,000 vehicles sold.
“Now that inventories have normalized we’re really seeing a better picture in terms of how customers are responding to the new MKZ,” said Merkle. “Certainly we’re very pleased, but we still have a lot of opportunity at Lincoln. There’s a lot of work to be done, and Lincoln is going to be judged over a period of years, not one month.”
According to Merkle, MKZ Hybrid sales are especially strong.
“One of the things really driving MKZ sales right now is the MKZ Hybrid, which is resonating very well with customers particularly in the Los Angeles region,” he explained. “Year-to-date about 60 percent of the MKZs sold in the Los Angeles area are hybrids. So we’re actually going to be increasing our production of MKZ hybrids to about 30 percent of the MKZ mix for the 2014 model year.”
The Ford Escape also had a record sales month in April, with an increase of 52 percent over last year.
“In the first four months of this year of this year, Escape was America’s No. 1 best-selling utility vehicle, surpassing the Honda CRV from last year,” said Merkle.
The gift that keeps on giving – Ford F-Series trucks – also posted strong gains in April with sales up 24 percent – the best April sales result since 2006.
“We’re seeing a lot of momentum right now in the full-size pickup segment and F-Series is leading the way,” said Merkle. “All of this month’s sales results say a lot about how far we have come as an automaker. We have America’s best-selling pickup, best-selling utility and additional capacity coming online for Fusion to challenge the best-selling cars, Camry and Accord, later this year.”