TheC-Max hybrid cross/utility vehicle has come strong out of the gate, racking up 4,848 deliveries in just its second full month of sales.
The tally brings C-Max within the sales range of the venerable Mustang pony car, which posted a 37% increase vs. year-ago on 5,309 deliveries in November.
“C-Max is doing just a terrific job,” Ken Czubay, vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service, says in a conference call with analysts and reporters. “Dealers are telling us consumers are coming in droves and buying them off the truck.”
The C-Max helpedachieve its best hybrid sales month in history. Combined with the auto maker’s other hybrid options, including the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, Ford hybrid sales exceeded 6,000 units in November, up from the previous record of 5,353 deliveries in July 2009.
The auto maker says 65% of C-Max hybrid buyers are new to Ford and the vehicle has a 60% conquest rate, with thePrius the top competitive trade-in model.
The C-Max represents Ford’s latest foray into the hybrid market, which it entered in 2004 with the Escape CUV.
While the numbers were good for C-Max, it still has a long way to go to catch the Prius, the top-selling hybrid in the U.S. Prius deliveries in November fell 23.6% compared with like-2011, but volume, at 11,615 units, more than doubled the C-Max results, according to WardsAuto data.
The all-new ’13 Fusion, the other Ford newcomer to the market, didn’t fare as well, posting a 24.0% drop in November to 15,125 units.
Fusion sales were hampered by limited inventories, which totaled less than 16,000 units, down from 34,000 year-ago.
Erich Merkle, Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, says the Fusion pipeline is being filled, but production has been slowed by a parts problem. Jim Tetreault, vice president-North America manufacturing, declined to specify the problem in an interview last month with WardsAuto, saying only that the auto maker was working on a fix.
Both the Fusion and Escape CUV have suffered some negative publicity as a result of a recall involving their 1.6L direct-injected turbocharged EcoBoost engines, which can overheat and possibly catch fire. Like Fusion, Escape sales also tumbled in November, down 3.9% to 20,970, but Czubay says the recall has had no affect on demand for either vehicle.
“Customers appreciate our proactive actions on (the recalls),” he says. “They know our No.1 concern is safety and quality and are appreciative of us acting quickly. At this point, we haven’t seen any derogatory showroom comments.”
Owners of ’13 Escape and Fusion vehicles equipped with the 1.6L engine are advised to contact their dealer as soon as possible to arrange for alternative transportation at no charge. It is unclear when Ford will begin fixing the vehicles. Repair procedures still are being developed, Czubay says.
Ford had its best November sales for small cars since 2000, with Focus, C-Max and Fiesta combining for 26,848 deliveries. Focus sales jumped 56.0% to 18,312, while Fiesta deliveries increased 3.8% to 3,688.
Light-truck demand rose 1.9% vs. year-ago to 117,859, with the F-Series pickup posting a 16.5% gain to 52,727. Sales of the Explorer and Edge CUVs spiked 15.9% and 4.7%, respectively.
Overall, Ford November sales were up 5.8% to 173,520 on both a volume and daily-rate basis (25 selling days both periods).
The auto maker expects to close the year strong, noting there still is pent-up demand following the damage in the Northeast from Hurricane Sandy.
Meanwhile, Czubay says the auto maker is not concerned about potential negative impact from the so-called fiscal cliff, a term used to describe the end of temporary payroll tax cuts on Dec. 31.
The increasing average age of the U.S. vehicle park and low interest rates continue to drive consumers to showrooms, he says.
“The overall spirit of consumers in showrooms shows business is still going to be quite good.”