By on June 2, 2017

2017 Ford F150 XLT SuperCrew Towing, Image: FordWith its Ford and Lincoln brands, the Ford Motor Company reported 240,250 U.S. sales in May 2017, a 2-percent year-over-year improvement.

General Motors, which has outsold Ford Motor Company in 14 consecutive months, sold 237,364 new vehicles in May 2017, a 1-percent year-over-year drop.

In May 2017, for the first time since March of last year, the Ford Motor Company outsold General Motors.

The Mark Fields era at Ford, a period in which the company’s value crumbled, is over. But if Fields took the blame for what ailed Ford, doesn’t he get the credit for what went right? Besides a handsome severance package, the Mark Fields era ended with Ford Motor Company out in front of General Motors.

But how did Ford make it happen? With pickups and fleets.

Despite a 2-percent uptick in overall light truck volume overall, GM’s pickup truck volume declined 5 percent, year-over-year, in May 2017. This GM pickup truck decline occurred in a truck category that, GM excluded, jumped 17 percent in May, a gain of nearly 24,000 total sales for Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda.

In other words, pickups are hot. GM’s pickups, increasingly de-incentivized, are not.

Meanwhile at Ford, F-Series sales jumped 13 percent last month, continuing a trend of improvement from the earlier part of the year that suggests Ford will sell nearly 900,000 pickup trucks this year — a 12 or 13-year high for the F-Series range.

Though demanding more from paying customers — Ford says average F-Series transaction prices rose $3,300 last month — May’s 76,027-unit F-Series performance was still best May for the truck lineup since 2004. Ford’s share of the full-size truck market jumped more than a point to 39 percent.

Ford wasn’t the only automaker to pick up pickup sales at GM’s expense. May was the third consecutive month in which the Ram P/U line, up 16 percent last month, outsold the Chevrolet Silverado.2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Image: General MotorsFLEET
While the F-Series accounted for nearly one-third of total Ford Motor Company U.S. sales in May, trucks aren’t the whole ball game. Ford/Lincoln passenger car sales were down 10 percent last month, a drastic drop to be sure, but nothing like the 22-percent rate of decline experienced by the ten car nameplates through the first one-third of the year.

Ford division SUVs/crossovers, meanwhile, reported a collective 3-percent gain in May. Those five utility vehicles outsold Ford’s own car division by more than 21,000 units.

Regardless of the nameplate — SUV, crossover, and car or typically fleet-friendly truck or van — Ford required a significant boost in fleet volume in order to outsell General Motors and earn 16 percent of the market in May. 34 percent of Ford Motor Company May 2017 sales were fleet-derived.

Retail sales at Ford Motor Company slid 1 percent. Retail sales at General Motors — 21 percent stronger than Ford’s retail volume — ticked up slightly.

Of course, not all fleet is bad. Indeed, a good fleet sale is much better than a bad retail sale. And so long as Ford is dominating core fleet segments with commercial vans and pickup trucks, we’ll always see large fleet volume from the automaker.

Ford says 16 percent of the company’s total May volume was produced by sales to daily rental companies, another 12 percent went to commercial fleets, and 6 percent of May’s volume were generated by sales to government fleets.

That boost certainly helped Ford decrease its inventory glut to much more tolerable levels. At the end of April, Ford had 83 days’ supply, including vehicles in transit. That was down to 72 days by the end of May, less supply than Ford had at this stage of 2016 when the market was climbing. And so it should be.

According to ALG, Ford Motor Company and General Motors average transaction prices were essentially on par with another. Incentives at Ford Motor Company rose 14 percent year-over-year to $4,090, ALG says, though that was down marginally from April levels. At General Motors, incentives grew 5 percent to $4,255 compared with May of last year and were up narrowly compared with April.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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30 Comments on “How Did Ford Motor Company Outsell General Motors In May 2017?...”

  • avatar

    Let’s be clear, GM hasn’t made an attempt to gain market share in quite some time now. Cut the ridiculously high profits margins they ask for the few desireable vehicles they have left in half; and check back in a month. As is they pretend that the Camaro, Tahoe, Suburban, certain trims of the Silverado, and even the Corvette are in some way luxury vehicles rather than price them in a way the typical blue collar consumer of those products could afford them.

    • 0 avatar

      I think GM’s continued restriction of the 6.2L is hurting it.

      The 5.3L is an okay engine (as long as you don’t get the 3.08), but it is virtually the only option for the trucks on dealer lots and just suffers a huge power deficit to the Ecoboost offerings.

      The 6.2L should be matching Ford’s sales mix of the 3.5EB.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s no reason to limit the 6.2L, it gets excellent fuel economy and is GMs best current engine.

        • 0 avatar

          Agreed, but GM is too busy trying to sell us 6-cylinder $36K trucks, the magic MSRP number to get a Silverado with a V8 in my area. Ford may also have 6’s, but they got some oomph, and the Hemi Rams are easily obtainable for less than $36K.

          Ford earned this via fleet sales, but Ford didn’t away the store. Titanium Fusion & Escape rentals are coveted by renters. The rest of the fleet sales are a pretty good sign Ford just has a better product.

          • 0 avatar

            You can negotiate a hemi below $20k – coupled with a 3.93 (or w/e) axle ratio, that truck is about unbeatable. Ford has focused on a different consumer and done fine. GM has gone off the deep end, the desireable engine is basically unavailable the ones available are priced like gold, the decisively middling 5.3 is a joke with the available axle ratios and the throttle response setup. What masochistic piece of crap decided a 3.08 gear ratio was ok in a heavily detuned truck? Fields may have been fired but GM needs a shakeup much worse, they have the best engineering but the worst leadership I can think of maybe besides early 1970s IHC.

      • 0 avatar

        “I think GM’s continued restriction of the 6.2L is hurting it.”

        You can get the 6.2 in the 2018 Tahoe.

        • 0 avatar

          Yea, only for a single “sport” option package.

          And it still won’t be on the Suburban.

          And you still can’t even do a 5.3/3.73 combo on any of the SUVs.

          I want to see the 6.2L proliferate the K2xx. It needs to be the *volume* engine. The 5.3L should have a much lesser role, like the old 4.7L had in the Ram trucks of the past.

  • avatar

    F-series showing strong sales and rising transaction prices. Go figure.

    Remember all the commentary about how aluminum trucks with boosted engines were sure to be a flop?

  • avatar

    Not terribly surprising. GM’s pickups feel cheap and lackluster competition at the same price. Without a price advantage, why bother.

  • avatar

    The F-150 really is head and shoulders above their peers. Unless the other automakers are willing to offer significant discounts to compete, they are going to have to step up their game.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    And why exactly was Mark Field fired?

    Stockholders, that’s the only reason.

    • 0 avatar

      You say it like it’s an insignificant detail. Stockholders own the company and they were “losing” money on their investment.

      “Outselling” General Motors does not necessarily mean the company is doing everything right.

      General Motors the year it went bankrupt was “outselling” Ford handily.

    • 0 avatar

      Rumor mill says he was an ego centric nasty piece of work.
      When you are disliked, there is only so far you can go.
      Now he can be nasty to his wife and kids and house keeper all he wants.

  • avatar

    34% fleet and $4100 incentives – and this is before the market really turns down.

    • 0 avatar

      Get one while u can !! Agreed, the fleet sales worry this stockholder, but then again, if companies want to buy Ford’s over a competitor, that says a lot for Ford, in a good way.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s more of an issue that rental agencies need to buy vehicles and other makers are going, ya, we cap our sales now. Call it what you want, 34% fleet and declining retail sales is never a good thing.

  • avatar

    A few things to consider. Chevy likely has lower transaction prices on the silverado as most of those high end transactions go to the GMC brand. Last time I asked my local GMC salesman, he said slightly more than half of all trucks and SUV’s were being bought in Denali trim. Also, while ford still does maintain market dominance with the F series, GM still maintains market dominance with their body of frame SUV’s, by a considerable margin. They own about 70% of that market. Impressive considering the new Nissan Armada, sorta new Ford expedition, and refreshed Toyota Sequoia. The other thing to note is GM will be introducing new SUV’s over the course of the year with the new Traverse, Equinox, Enclave, Terrain, etc. IF they manage to at least match the competition, we may see a sales swing at least from a fleet buying angle from Ford to Chevy, mostly because the running costs will be lower. I will be very interested to see how the new Equinox diesel does. I can see that engine spreading to the rest of the GM SUV lineup if the take rate right, the same way the RAM EcoDiesels started out.

  • avatar

    This never would have happened if GM had just kept Pontiac, or Oldsmobile, or Hummer, or Geo, or…

  • avatar

    The era of cut-and-run Bara the only place for GM to go is downward. On the other hand, Fields has built up Ford in both Europe the US. The mustang is now the bestselling American car in Europe. Imagine the Germans on waiting lists to buy American mustangs! Bara strategy was to instead to leave Europe, giving the impression GM could not compete there.

    It is strange that Bara was been awarded for her incompetence, while Fields was fired just two days before it was announced Ford had surpassed GM in domestic market share.

    It has been estimated that GM lost about 3% market share by cancelling, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Hummer, and Saturn. With those divisions still intact GM would have a market share of around 19-20% today. Bara states she wants GM to concentrate of profitability instead of chasing market share. It has done little good, since GM stock price is still trash (33 USD). You will also be surprised how little interest GM stock holders have in the actual quality of GM cars.

    Fast Fact.

    The cancelled divisions of old GM which include, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Pontiac, and Hummer could create a single division that would outsell all of Mitsubishi, Lincoln, and Mazda combined! We are probably talking about a combined sales volume of 250,000+ cars.

    Bara will be fired once GM’s stock drops to around 26 USD. As I said before with GM’s current strategy the only place to go is downward. Ford will win a few more months in the market share race and take over permanently in the early 2020s.

    • 0 avatar

      Meh. Little growth and less profit to be had in the European market. GM is focusing on China; that’s where the growth potential is. Seems pretty smart to me.

  • avatar

    That picture above, new GM pickups being delivered on an ancient Volvo/White truck – that machine myst be 20 years old at the least. How long do US commercial trucks do service? In Europe, it’s rare to see 20 yo trucks do that kind of duty, especially if hired for a vehicle manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar

      How long a truck stays in service can vary greatly based on the type of service it sees. For reference my state will keep a MD, HD or XD truck for up to 25 years is it is in light service. On the other hand I knwo the one local massive trucking company that does a lot of long haul who’s trade-ins flood the local Frieghtliner dealers when they are 10-12 years old, but then the second usually independent or small operator will be seen running the distinctive base color for many years to come.

      Now in the US new cars make the majority of their trip by rail. There are lots of local rail yards where the trucks then take them to the dealers. Some some of these trucks will struggle to do 100 mi per day. Plus may expect their big rigs to last 1~1.5 million miles.

      • 0 avatar

        Awesome post, this was really enlightening. I’m also surprised hearing rail transport is so efficient in the US; it’s certainly not that popular for passenger transport, is it?

        • 0 avatar

          Passenger trains are pretty uncommon in the US other than the few cities that have commuter “light rail”. Freight on the other hand is what keeps them alive.

          A friend of my son, who has sort of adopted my wife and I as his second set of parents works as what I call a can smasher for BNSF. His job is taking the shipping containers off of the trains and putting them on trailers and vice versa. It is a big yard with a number of employees working two or three shifts a day. There is a near constant flow of trucks in and out most of the year. It really peaks in the months before Thanksgiving with all of the consumer goods from China heading to distribution centers across the US. Then there is another peak between Thanksgiving and Christmas as they ship containers of packages for UPS and all those empty cans making their way back to China.

          The picture you are referencing was almost certainly taken in one of those rail yard. Two of them in my are are located right next to a major freeway so when I’ve go by there in the mornings you’ll see a line of trucks that were loaded overnight waiting for their drivers to take the cars to the dealers.

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