Ford’s U.S. November sales rose 2.4% over year-ago on a daily rate basis on the back of strong performances of key models, including the Fiesta B-car and Fusion midsize sedan, up 21.0% and 45.1%, respectively.

Last month’s tally of 185,200 U.S. deliveries, which marked the automaker’s best November since 2004, reflected gains across some segments, with a few nameplates turning in poor performances.

Ford had a good month in the truck category, with deliveries of its bread-and-butter F-Series fullsize pickup up 10.6% to 60,996 units and sales of the E-Series van jumping 35.7% to 10,145.

John Felice, Ford vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service, says commercial customers often purchase late in the year, which helped give the F-Series and E-Series a boost.

“It’s not surprising with the improvement in the economy and business environment, and at the end of the year because of tax purposes companies step up and buy,” he says during a conference call with analysts and journalists to discuss November sales results.

Utility sales were mixed, with most showing drastic declines, including the Escape small CUV (down 3.7%), Edge midsize CUV (16.9%) and Lincoln MKX luxury CUV (11.2%).

While it’s not unusual for Edge and MKX sales to fluctuate, Escape historically is one of Ford’s strongest performers. But Felice points to the Escape’s 20,988 deliveries for the month, saying he is not concerned by the November slump.

“We were pleased with Escape, which had a 9% increase in retail sales,” he says. “Year-over-year fleet (demand) was down significantly, so retail was strong while fleet sales were down.”

The Focus C-car, typically a stalwart in Ford’s lineup, was another disappointment, posting a 19.9% decline vs. year-ago to 15,239 units.

Felice says the Focus was the victim of the recently revamped Fiesta pulling away buyers, and stresses the car’s transaction prices are among the highest in its segment.

Meanwhile, Felice says the midsize sedan segment is becoming increasingly competitive and showing signs of contraction. Asian automakers, have hiked incentives, particularly Toyota on its popular Camry midsize sedan.

“When you look at the dynamics, what’s happening is there is weakness in the C/D segment,” he says. “Industry levels are up for all manufacturers, so there is a strong competitive environment in the C/D segment.”

Of Ford’s total November sales, 23% were to fleets, with 13% going to commercial buyers, 4% government and 6% daily rental. Last November’s fleet mix was 24%, with 14% commercial, 4% government and 6% daily rental.

Ford ended November with 682,000 light vehicles in inventory, including 178,000 utility vehicles, 268,000 trucks and 236,000 cars, equating to 89 days’ supply overall, well above the 60 days’ supply considered ideal.

Erich Merkle, Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, says the automaker is building up stock levels in preparation for new-model launches next year which will require brief plant shutdowns.

bpope@wardsauto.com