says light-truck sales through the year’s first 10 months accounted for 64.4% of its total deliveries, despite pouring significant resources into bolstering its car lineup.
Light trucks in October represented 69.7% of’s 165,232 sales, according to WardsAuto data. If the trend continues, the auto maker will match the 2002-2007 period, in which light trucks accounted for more than 65% of total sales in five of the six years.
Beginning in the 1980s, cars regularly accounted for 60% of Ford’s total deliveries, before trucks took the lead in 1995.
Light trucks helped push Ford’s October sales 10.8% ahead of year-ago based on a daily selling rate. There were 26 selling days this year vs. 27 in 2010.
Ford admits its truck and utility lineup has been driving sales but says the devil is in the details.
Ken Czubay, vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service, notes Ford’s truck lineup includes mostly car-based utilities, not traditional body-on-frame models as in the past.
“In 2011, almost two-thirds of retail sales are cars and car-based utilities,” he says in a conference call with journalists and analysts. “Historically, (autumn) is the time of year utilities and pickups resonate well in the market.”
Czubay says Ford dealers are reporting more customers are cross-shopping cars and cross/utility vehicles, a phenomenon that is picking up in pace. “We’re getting cross-shopping as fuel economy improves in all (segments), because the value proposition evens out.”
The Explorer, which rides on a modified Taurus platform, saw a strong October, with sales soaring 237.2% to 11,987 units. That marks the highest volume month for the all-new model since its introduction last year, Czubay says, adding retail sales of the SUV have tripled in every U.S. region tracked by Ford.
The Escape CUV also continues on a torrid pace, racking up 18,473 deliveries for the month, good for a 38.8% year-over-year gain.
Through October, the traditional gas-powered Escape sold 199,018 units. But factoring in the 7,878 Escape Hybrid deliveries puts the CUV past the 200,000-unit mark for the year.
However, sales of the Edge CUV fell 6.6% in October to 9,161, prompting some analysts to speculate the Explorer is cannibalizing sales.
Czubay dismisses the theory, saying the Edge “is coexisting with Explorer and Escape very nicely. Edge sales are up calendar year-to-date and on a record pace.”
Ford’s traditional truck offerings recorded a solid October. F-150 pickup sales rose 12.9% to 50,241 units, while the small Ranger pickup soared 69.7% to 7,270.
The Ranger is scheduled to be discontinued later this year. But Czubay says Ford expects most customers will flock to F-150 models equipped with a V-6 engine, particularly the direct-injected turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost mill.
“Ranger is doing well now, but (the) F-Series continues to grow,” he says. “Dealers and consumers are telling us the F-Series with EcoBoost is attracting those who want fuel economy.”
The Fusion midsize sedan was the volume car leader, with 17,237 deliveries, for a 13.9% gain on year-ago. The Focus C-car was close behind, posting a 3.7% uptick to 12,386.
Czubay says inventory constraints that plagued the Focus early in its launch are in the rear-view mirror. “Focus is on plan.”
Ford’s fleet mix for the month was 27%, with rental accounting for 8% of the total; commercial 14% and government purchase 5%. Year-to-date, the fleet mix is about 33%, the auto maker says.
Ford ended October with 454,000 units in inventory, including 141,000 cars and 313,000 trucks, equating to a 70 days’ supply.