Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Although satisfied with current ’08 F-150 inventory levels, Ford Motor Co.’s Mark Fields says it “remains to be seen” whether a heavily revamped ’09 version of its fullsize pickup will be able to launch this fall without incentives.

“Will we have to put money on the truck? We don’t know that,” Fields, president-The Americas, tells media at a dinner on the outskirts of the Management Briefing Seminars here.

“At the end of the day, we have to be competitive in the marketplace, both from a product and an offering standpoint.”

Fields says the fullsize pickup segment is “a little brighter” now than it was two months ago, largely due to heavy discounting of ’08 models as auto makers prepare their ’09s.

But there’s no telling if the large spiffs will end up pulling too many sales forward, so Ford is assuming the pickup share of total industry light-vehicle sales will “remain very, very conservative” through the end of 2009, Fields says.

Ford ended July with 107 days’ supply of F-Series pickups in stock, up from 79 a year ago but well below June’s 133-day tally. In comparison, July ended with Chevrolet Silverado inventories at 122 days, the GMC Sierra at 131 days and Nissan Titan at 144.

Fields declines to reveal what the auto maker’s inventory target is for the ’08s heading into the ’09 rollout.

“We do have a number in mind, and we’re tracking pretty well,” he says.

Ford officials first hinted at an incentives-backed launch of the ’09 F-150 in early July, telling Ward’s the auto maker would put most of its marketing emphasis on 2-door versions, popular with customers who use the trucks in the workplace.

More upscale models, such as the top-of-the-line Platinum edition, will play a lesser role at launch as a result of the sudden decline in demand from personal-use buyers, Ford officials said.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com