September 2014 Sales: Outgoing F-Series Not Responsible For Ford Decline

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

The Ford Motor Company’s namesake Ford brand suffered a September 2014 sales decline of 3% as the industry reported gains in excess of 9%.

First thought?

The F-Series, not just Ford’s best-selling model line but the country’s most popular vehicle range, was revealed in new, high-tech form months ago, and we’re rapidly approaching the replacement phase. Some members of the media have even been driving the new truck.

In other words, with factories being overhauled and buyers interested in waiting for a more efficient F-150 with a better power-to-weight ratio, sales of the current model would naturally decline, bringing down a brand that relied on the F-Series for more than three out of every ten sales last year.

Indeed, F-Series sales did decline in September. But only slightly.

At least up until this point, Ford has matched the appropriate level of incentives to the appropriate level of production in order to maintain F-Series sales leadership, while clearly sacrificing some market share.

Through the first nine months of 2014, F-Series sales are down just 0.4%.

On the other hand, the overall Ford brand is off last year’s pace by 1%. September 2014’s 3.2% drop for the Ford brand involved a 1% decline in F-Series sales, equal to 593 fewer units, but a 5.5% decline in Ford car sales, equal to 2952 fewer units.

The C-Max slid 18%, Fiesta sales fell 17%, Focus volume was down 8%, Taurus sales fell 15%. These weren’t anomalies, either, as all four of those cars have reported year-over-year declines over the last nine months. (Not unpredictably, Mustang sales fell 29% in September; they’re up 1% this year.)

Meanwhile in the SUV and crossover corners of the showroom, Ford utility vehicle sales were down 1.9% in September, having risen just 1% through three-quarters despite a massive boom in SUV/crossover sales.

There are reasons for all of this, of course. Moreover, there is one key exception which we’ll get to later. The car lineup is anything but new. The Fiesta’s introduction in its current form preceded new introductions of virtually all direct Fiesta rivals. The Focus is being freshened for 2015, but the segment leaders, Corolla and Civic, are much newer. The Taurus is part of an increasingly less desirable segment. The embattled C-Max – “Where’s my as-advertised fuel economy?” they’ve often asked – has never approached Prius-like sales volume, and it trailed the Prius V by 960 units in September.

Ford’s Edge, of course, is approaching replacement, having been around since late 2006 with small updates scattered throughout its tenure. Expedition sales are up 19% this year, but the 3% decline in September comes as GM’s popular full-size SUVs compete against the outgoing, V8-engined Expedition.

Explorer Police Interceptor sales provided a boost to the overarching Explorer nameplate in September, but sales of the civilian Explorer were up just 0.8%, well off the 5.5% pace achieved through the first three-quarters. More troubling was the Escape’s 3.9% loss. The Escape, last America’s top-selling utility vehicle in 2011, set a sales record in calendar year 2013. Based on the three-quarter performance (sales are up 0.8% this year), it could do so again in 2014. But its competitors are quickly garnering larger portions of the segment.

Escape sales fell by 889 units in September. Of greater numerical significance last month was the 2151-unit decline in full-size commercial van sales at Ford. As the E-Series winds down, with a 38% drop to 5549 units in September, the Transit has not yet wound up. 1225 were sold last month, up from 1099 in August and 496 in July. It’s very early, but if we exclude those numbers, and if we assume Ford will get its full-size commercial van groove back, the brand-wide numbers certainly change. Without the E-Series and Transit, Ford sales fell 2.1% in September.

Regardless, to blame the F-Series for Ford’s stagnation in 2014 is to ignore the responsibility other models have of carrying fair shares of the load. The Fusion, sales of which jumped 9% to 21,693 in September and 6% to 240,585 so far this year, isn’t going to carry the passenger car load on its own.

Perhaps non-truck Fords are simply levelling off before the overall industry does so in 2015 or 2016. Perhaps we can expect surprising growth from Ford when the next Edge arrives. Perhaps we should recognize the F-Series for what it is: Ford’s engine.

Setting aside guessing and surmising, we are able to grasp some facts firmly in our minds. Even if Ford F-Series sales had increased 1% in September rather than declining 1%, overall Ford brand sales would still have decreased by 2.6% last month. And if we exclude the F-Series’ actual tally from Ford’s September results, the brand’s figures look rather worse, falling 4.4%, rather than 3.2%.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

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  • DeadWeight DeadWeight on Oct 04, 2014

    Short sighted analysis going on here. Ford is in a very vulnerable position, since it relies on the F Series (and trucks, broadly speaking) to generate almost all of its profit, it has priced its vehicles (trucks and cars alike) at the heftiest premiums of all the volume manufacturers, WHILE the reliability ranking of its lineup is absolutely breaking down – there is a lag here (between consumer experiences of reliability & future purchases/leases) that is already beginning to catch up with Ford. Add to this that, no matter what anyone claims, aluminum body paneled F Series are going to be much more expensive to repair (even in the case of minor damage; especially in the case of major damage), thus necessitating much higher insurance premiums (collision/comprehensive coverage is 80% of the cost of auto insurance), and the reliability issues plaguing the Ecoboost Ford motors, and Ford is literally betting everything on one of the two colors of the roulette wheel - AGAIN.

    • LectroByte LectroByte on Oct 05, 2014

      Yes, but... Everyone I talk to in my travels from East TN to Chicago believes Ford is the only true American car company left, Dodge = Fiat, GM = Government Motors. Nobody wants to spend $40K on a truck and hear O-Bummer jokes, or have Fix It Again Tony written in the dust on the tailgate.

  • RobertRyan RobertRyan on Oct 04, 2014

    Unfortunately this does sum up Ford "Perhaps non-truck Fords are simply levelling off before the overall industry does so in 2015 or 2016. Perhaps we can expect surprising growth from Ford when the next Edge arrives. Perhaps we should recognize the F-Series for what it is: Ford’s engine."

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