A cut in fleet sales and a somewhat weak car market compared with year-ago sent Ford U.S. light-vehicle sales to a 4.6% decline on a daily rate basis in April, which had one more selling day this year than last.

Total volume reached 206,296 LVs, according to WardsAuto data, only slightly below forecast. But it was the modest 0.3% hike in truck sales that kept the automaker from a steeper decline overall in the month.

Car sales slipped 12.6% on a daily-rate basis, a falloff from year-ago the automaker is attributing in large share to a reduction in fleet sales. But unlike February when weather hampered delivery, April’s decline in fleet volume was a planned one, Ford says.

For example, most of the 18.6% drop in Focus sales resulted from the pullback in daily rental deliveries, says Erich Merkle, Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, with retail volume declining a relatively modest 4% that is more in line with the industry overall.

Fleets accounted for 33% of Ford’s total sales compared with 32% year-ago, with commercial volume at 16%, government at 7% and daily rental at 10%. The daily rental penetration marks a drop of three points from year-ago.

The midsize Fusion fared better than the smaller Focus, declining 4.9% on a daily basis from year-ago. Merkle says the model continues to command average transaction prices at the high end of the segment, at about $24,000, though that’s down about $550 from year-ago due to incentives that have risen to $590 per unit from $430.

Overall, Merkle says, industry incentives have been held in check, even in the hotly contested fullsize pickup market, which he says declined $210 per unit from March.

“There’s some volatility between automakers, but overall from a macro perspective it seems to be pretty contained,” he says. F-Series spiffs are down $380 from year-ago to about $3,700 per unit, leading Merkel to believe there may be more sales upside for the pickup.

Leading the charge on the truck side were the F-Series, up 3.9% daily, and the Explorer, spiking 15.1%. The Explorer performance marked its best April since 2005, Ford says, driven in part by a 33% jump in demand in California.

Ford says inventories are not an issue, as April ended with 660,000 units in stock, an estimated 81 days’ supply. That compares with 680,000 units, or a 72 days’ supply, in March. Of the April stock, cars accounted for 213,000 units, with trucks at 287,000 and utilities at 160,000.

dzoia@wardsauto.com