Sales of the Ford Escape cross/utility vehicle bounced back in August to 25,369, up 21.8% from year-ago, after a dismal July that saw deliveries slide 11.4% to 19,415 units, according to WardsAuto data.

Erich Merkle, Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, says the all-new ’13 Escape, which saw its first full month of sales in July, reversed the downward trajectory as more units reached dealer lots.

“About 80% of Escape (sales) in August were for the new model,” he tells WardsAuto. That compares with only 45% of July sales, Merkle says, noting the Escape is the fastest-turning model in Ford’s lineup. “We’ve been transitioning (to the ’13 model), so the mix is changing.”

To meet consumer demand for the CUV, Ford last month added a third shift at its Louisville, KY, assembly plant where the Escape is built.

“What (the turn rate) tells us is that we can sell (the new Escape) as we continue to fill the pipeline,” Merkle says. “And 50% of sales are the high SEL and Titanium trim levels, and those are turning at about twice the rate of lower-base models.”

The Escape’s August performance was just 281 units shy of the CUV’s best-ever sales record set in June with 25,650 units, according to WardsAuto data.

Ford is hoping for similar success when it replaces its popular Fusion midsize sedan with an all-new model later this year.

Fusion sales in August climbed 12.0%, compared with year-ago, to 20,605 units. The strong performance came without any hefty incentives to help move out the old model to make way for the new, says Ken Czubay, Ford vice president-U.S. marketing.

The increased deliveries were a welcome surprise, he says, noting sales sometimes fall off when a new model is soon to be released.

“Fusion had its best-ever August, and we’re further ahead of where we expected to be in the sell-down of the current model,” he says in a conference call with analysts and journalists. “It’s indicative of what Ford is doing in the car market where we can be ahead on sell-down when everyone is anticipating a new product.”

Escape and Fusion sales helped propel Ford to a 7.8% gain on year-ago in August to 192,937 units on a daily selling rate basis. There were 27 selling days this year compared with 26 in 2011.

Other key Ford products that enjoyed a strong August included the F-Series pickup, up 13.2% to 54,389. Czubay says the auto maker expects an even better month for the F-Series in September due to the recent launch of Ford’s annual truck-month promotion.

Ford Explorer deliveries jumped 34.8% last month, compared with like-2011, to 13,863 units, while the Mustang inched up 7.5% to 6,387.

Sales of the Focus C-car soared 29.6% to 18,978. Volume potentially could have been higher if more units had been available, Czubay says, noting Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, MI, is running “flat out.”

The Fiesta B-car did not fare as well, with deliveries plummeting 31.0% to 4,176 units. Czubay insists the Fiesta’s performance is “on plan,” and was expected after the new Focus pipeline was filled following early production difficulties during its launch last year.

“As we increase availability with (the) Focus, we will sell more and there will be a natural water level between Focus and Fiesta,” he says.

Ford’s total fleet mix for August was 26%, with commercial fleets accounting for 14%, government fleets 5% and rental-car companies 7%.

The auto maker ended the month with 414,000 light vehicles in stock, including 110,000 cars, 200,000 trucks and 104,000 utility vehicles.

bpope@wardsauto.com