U.S. sales climbed 5.0% in December and 10.4% for full-year 2013, but the increase came largely at the expense of small-car deliveries, particularly of the Focus C-car, as utilities posted strong results.
December deliveries tallied 211,353, while 2013 sales finished at 2,435,287. Big gainers last month included the F-Series, up 10.8%, and Escape, up 26.3%.
On the other end of the spectrum, Focus sales were off 28.3% in December, while Fiesta B-car and C-Max hybrid sales slid 17.0% and 51.0%, respectively.
Erich Merkle,’s top U.S. sales analyst, says several factors caused the drop in passenger-car sales.
“Overall December is a tough month for small cars,” he says during a conference call with reporters and analysts to discuss sales results. “And we’re seeing affordable fuel prices.”
Merkle declines to comment on whether he expects continued weakness from Ford’s car lineup, noting there’s a chance for a bounce back in the spring and summer months when the segment typically recovers.
F-Series deliveries increased 17.3% for full-year 2013 to 713,453, making it once again Ford’s top selling vehicle. Industrywide, pickups accounted for 12% of sales last year, as the segment was bolstered by improving economic conditions, says John Felice, vice president-U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.
“Low fuel prices have had a positive effect on the segment, but we’re also seeing overall strength in the economy and housing market,” he says. “That highly correlates with segmentation and we’re seeing sustained and steady progress with housing and strong demand for the F-Series.”
About 55% of the F-Series sold in December were the ’13 model year, but that number is expected to decrease as stock levels dwindle and the ratio tips in the balance of ’14 models.
Escape sales in 2013 tallied 295,993, a 13.4% increase compared with like-2012 and a record year for the small CUV.
The Fusion midsize sedan also set an annual sales record last year with 295,280 deliveries, a 22.3% increase over like-2012. Fusion deliveries for December were up 31.6% to 24,408, but Felice says some of the gain was due to low stock levels in like-2013.
“Last year in December we didn’t have any (Fusions) to sell,” he says.
Lincoln sales for December and for 2013 mostly were down across the board. Exceptions were the MKZ midsize sedan, which posted an 80.1% increase last month and a 15.3% gain for the year, and the Navigator fullsize SUV, which eked out a 2.8% annual increase despite a 9.4% drop last month.
“We’re encouraged by the solid demand (for MKZ), but we have further to go with Lincoln,” Felice says, noting the automaker is gearing up for the launch of the Lincoln MKC CUV this summer.
For the second consecutive year Ford took second place behindin U.S. sales, outpacing , which sold 2.236 million units in 2013.
Felice says Ford is loosening’s hold on the West Coast, where domestic auto sales typically have been weak.
“Our largest competitive conquest in Los Angeles is Toyota, and L.A. is our fastest-growing area in the country,” he says. “Our retail sales and share gains (in L.A.) outpaced Toyota.”
Ford ended December with 639,000 light vehicles in inventory, including 168,000 utility vehicles, 247,000 trucks and 224,000 cars, equating to 73 days’ supply overall.