’s October light-vehicle sales were flat with like-2011, but the auto maker says several new models performed well and an increase in demand is expected this month as a result of the East Coast devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Ken Czubay, vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service, says it’s difficult to determine how much increased demandwill see this month as a result of consumers replacing storm-damaged vehicles.
“What we’ve learned from these tragic events is sales are postponed and typically come back quickly after households stabilize,” he says in a conference call with analysts and journalists. “Typically, after insurance claims come in, people use the proceeds to buy new vehicles. We expect to see a lot of those, but can’t quantify.”
Ford estimates U.S. auto makers lost some 300,000 units of dealer inventory as a result of the hurricane.
Czubay says nearly all of Ford’s East Coast dealerships were affected by the disaster to some degree, but most now are back in operation “in some form or another.”
Czubay expects a number of buyers looking to replace damaged vehicles to turn to small cars, sales of which have been growing.
Ford Focus, C-Max Hybrid and Fiesta deliveries tallied a combined 25,456 units, marking the auto maker’s best October for small-car volume since 2001.
Focus demand jumped 47.6% vs. year-ago on a daily rate basis to 18,283 units, according to WardsAuto data. There were 26 selling days both this year and last.
“What we’ve found with Focus, is it continues to have wide and driving acceptance in the marketplace,” Czubay says. “At the beginning of month, higher gas prices drove (consumers) to Focus.”
The Fiesta, which traditionally is outperformed by the larger Focus, saw sales slip 3.2% from like-2011 to 3,991.
Deliveries of the all-new C-Max hybrid, in its first full month on sale, totaled 3,182. Czubay says the model is one of Ford’s fastest-turning vehicles and has an “unusually high” 63% conquest rate.
ThePrius, the best-selling U.S. hybrid, is the model most often traded in on a new C-Max. “We’ve been very pleased with the receptivity of the (model), and we’re shipping them as quickly as we can,” he says.
The midsize Fusion sedan is another fast-turning vehicle for Ford, though sales plunged 30.0% to 12,055 units due to limited supply of the all-new ’13 model.
“About 60% of sales in October were the new Fusion,” Czubay says, noting the sell-down of ’12 models continues. “I would anticipate our dealer inventories (of the ’13 Fusion) will be at appropriate levels by end of the year.”
The all-new ’13 Escape cross/utility vehicle saw October volume rise 7.3% vs. year-ago to 19,812 units. Ford says the model is on pace for another record sales year, topping the 2011 all-time high of 254,294. Through October, Escape sales totaled 218,558, according to WardsAuto data.
F-Series deliveries rose 5.5% to 52,931. Czubay says the pickup started slowly, but the purchase pace accelerated as gas prices declined during the month.
“There is a correlation between gas prices and sales,” he notes. “Ford dealers had a terrific month, with F-Series setting its best October since 2004.”
Ford’s fleet mix last month was 26%. Of that, 14% went to commercial buyers, 5% to government agencies and 7% to daily-rental companies.
The auto maker ended the month with 507,000 LVs in stock, including 136,000 cars, 238,000 trucks and 133,000 utility vehicles.