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Ford SUVs Show Only Year-Over-Year October Sales Increase

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author photo by Russ Heaps November 2018

Ford SUVs were the only bright spots in October's sales numbers for the Ford brand. In the long term, however, despite the flood of negative sales news, things may not be as bleak as they seem for Ford. In terms of units sold, Ford remains down for the year. But, market share isn't everything.

Coming off a September in which FCA outsold Ford for the first month since November 2015, Ford October 2018 sales were off nearly 4 percent from the same month last year. Through October, year-to-date sales were down by 2.2 percent in a market that increased by 0.5 percent. For comparison, General Motors was down by 1.6 percent and FCA was up by 7.2 percent for the 10-month period.

Lincoln -- Ford's luxury brand -- sales were down a whopping 15 percent for year-over-year October and were off by 9.6 percent over the first 10 months of this year. This pulled total Ford numbers down a total of 2.5 percent through October, but even here there's a bright spot. Sales of Lincoln's large SUV, the Navigator, were up a remarkable 81 percent. Redesigned for 2018, the reimagined Navigator arrived on dealer lots mid October. They have been flying out the door.

With Ford's decision to only market two cars (the Mustang and the Focus Active) in the coming years, the weight of Ford's future is firmly on the back of trucks and SUVs.

The good news coming from Ford for October 2018 is that its average transaction prices were up $1,400 over October of last year. In fact, they reached a record level of $36,800 per unit. The transaction price determines the gross profit for each vehicle. This is significantly better than the industry average increase of $330 per vehicle in October. So although sales were down slightly in October, profit per vehicle was way up.

"The average Ford transaction price is up notably," explained Cox Automotive's Michelle Krebs. "Ford is entering the perfect storm of profits: Customers want what Ford wants customers to buy, mainly large, pricey trucks and SUVs. At the same time, Lincoln is quietly building some of the best luxury vehicles in the business. The Navigator's big gains show their revisions are really connecting. Once the Nautilus (the MKX replacement) gets up and running, I bet it's a similar story."

What Went Wrong?

For the Ford brand, nearly everything went wrong. Sales for the Focus, the Fusion, the Taurus, the Mustang, the Escape, the Edge, the Flex, the E-Series and the F-150 all down from last October to this October. The biggest drag was the discontinued C-MAX that posted a 92.7-percent decline. In all, sales of Ford cars were off 16 percent, and Ford trucks were down by nearly 5 percent. Total brand sales were off 3.4 percent in October. Over at Lincoln, things were equally dismal with only the redesigned Navigator posting year-over-year October increases. The Lincoln brand was down 15 percent.

Looking at the numbers for the first 10 months of 2018 versus 2017, the Ford brand is down 2.2 percent, and the Lincoln brand is down 9.6 percent.

What Went Right?

For October, Ford sales edged out those of FCA by roughly 7,500 units.

Modest October year-over-year gains from Ford's large SUV the Expedition, the Explorer and its Police Interceptor Utility conspired to boost Ford SUV-category sales up nearly 8 percent. For cars, Ford's small Fiesta posted an October-over-October increase of nearly 66 percent. The Expedition was up 74.7 percent for October.

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Ford SUVs Show Only Year-Over-Year October Sales Increase - Autotrader