Massive U.S. government cuts, some of which take effect today, likely will have minimal impact on the auto industry, says’s vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service.
“The auto industry is being driven by an aging fleet, historically low interest rates, plentiful amounts of financing and gains in fuel economy and technology and other features consumers are demanding,” says Ken Czubay tells analysts and reporters during a February-sales conference call today.
“It’s inevitable there might be a slight offset, but positive factors influencing demand will overcome all of those,” he says.
So far this year,has managed to steer through the shaky economy, posting a double-digit sales gain in January followed by a 13.3% jump in February on a daily basis over year-ago to 191,557 units, according to WardsAuto data. There were 24 selling days this year and 25 in 2012.
Ford’s “super segment,” which Czubay says contains the Fiesta B-car, Focus C-car, Fusion midsize sedan, C-Max hybrid and Escape cross/utility vehicle, posted a 12% increase last month.
A 33.3% surge in Fusion sales and a 34.5% boost in Escape deliveries easily offset losses suffered by the Fiesta, down 5.3%, and Focus, down 7.1%.
“Dealers tell us when consumers come in and think they’ve (decided) on a car, they see the lineup and shift around a lot,” Czubay says. “Fusion and Escape, for example, are the most cross-shopped vehicles on the market, so there will always be shifting around in the showroom.”
Ford F-Series pickup sales climbed 18.2% last month, compared with year-ago, fueled by a rise in the housing market and replacement demand. Czubay expects deliveries to remain steady for the rest of the year, despite increased competition fromand .
February “represents the 19th consecutive month of year-over-year gains in the fullsize pickup segment,” he says.
Ford’s luxury brand has not been as fortunate, with Lincoln sales continuing to suffer, down 26.4% last month to just 4,883 units.
Czubay says a new Lincoln marketing campaign has generated interest in the restyled brand, but low inventory levels of the MKZ midsize sedan, the top-volume vehicle in the lineup, remain low.
Shipments of the ’13 MKZ from Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico, plant, have been delayed by what the auto maker says are planned quality inspections taking place at the Flat Rock, MI, factory, where the cars are diverted before delivery to dealers.
MKZ sales plummeted 60.4% in February from prior-year to 945. Czubay says about 100 units per day are reaching dealerships, and inventory levels should reach the desired level by April.
The inspections at Flat Rock include MKZs destined for East Coast and Midwest dealerships. Shipments earmarked for the West Coast are inspected at Hermosillo. Ultimately, Ford would like all MKZ inspections conducted at Hermosillo, but Czubay declines to provide a timeframe for that to occur.
Ford ended February with 575,000 light vehicles in inventory, including 153,000 utility vehicles, 246,000 trucks and 176,000 cars, equating to 71 days’ supply.