Ford Motor Co. is betting big that buyers will embrace its aluminum-body F-150 pickup truck, but February sales number show the F-Series truck line, which includes all of its F trucks, lagging in its rivals in the hot U.S. truck market. While it’s too early in the year to tell if the truck will end its 33-year-reign as the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., the latest numbers show a newly designed vehicle that’s sputtering. The new truck went on sale in December.
Overall, sales for the Dearborn, Michigan, automaker were down nearly 2 percent in February, led by a 7.5 percent drop in the luxury Lincoln division and a 6 percent retreat in Ford cars compared to February 2014.
“Ford will come under increasing scrutiny if sales don’t pick up soon,” Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at AutoTrader.com, said in an email. “February saw few bright spots for Ford -- the Explorer being the only mainstream standout. F-Series sales were actually down, while Chevrolet and Ram pickup sales were up -- and Chevy’s were up double digits.”
Automakers will report U.S. sales throughout the day Tuesday. Analysts expect overall sales to increase about 8 percent to 1.29 million units in February compared to the same month last year.
The new Ford Transit light commercial vehicle and growth in the Transit Connect compact panel van helped lift Ford truck sales by 4 percent despite the 1.2 percent decline in F-Series pickup truck sales. The F-series includes sales of heavy duty F trucks, like the F-350, but the F-150 makes up most of Ford pickup truck deliveries.
Ford claims retail demand for its truck is up 7 percent compared to the previous year and that it, “remains one of Ford’s fastest-turning vehicles on dealer lots.” That means the decline in sales is coming from fleet buyers, such as construction companies.
Ford said fleet sales were down 18 percent as the company works to stock retail showrooms before offering the new truck to companies.
Ford says it’s working to train employees of its Kansas City assembly plant in the new manufacturing process, suggesting that the company is grappling with a supply constraint. Aluminum bodies require a different fabrication process that include using industrial adhesives instead of electric welds to form the shape of the panels.
The only standout vehicle for Ford last month was the Explorer full-sized crossover, which benefited from robust demand for utility trucks. Explorer deliveries leapt 32 percent to 17,027 units, making up a third of all Ford SUV sales last month.
The 2016 Ford Explorer, which debuted at the Los Angeles auto show in November, is getting a significant facelift. Here’s a glimpse from AutoMoto Tube:
FORD SAFETY RECALLS SINCE THE START OF 2015
Most of these vehicles are located in the U.S.
Nearly 195,000 Ford Taurus sedans from the 2010-2013 model years and 2011-2013 Lincoln MKS full-sized luxury sedans were recalled to fix interior door handle return springs that could unseat. If the springs unseats, the affected door can unlatch in side collisions, increasing the risk of injury to the driver or passenger.
More than 16,000 2014 Ford Transit Connect vans were recalled to tighten upper seat belt bolts that can loosen over time. If the bolts loosen too much, the seat belt might not restrain the driver or passenger properly in the event of a collision.
Over 11,000 2015 Lincoln MKC compact luxury crossovers were recalled to reposition the engine start/stop button. The button can accidentally be pushed, shutting off the engine while the vehicle is in motion, disabling power steering, power brakes, air bags and seat belt pretensioners.
Over 9,000 2014 Ford Escape compact crossovers and 2015 Lincoln MKC compact luxury crossovers were recalled to replace nickel plating parts inside the fuel pump. The problem can lead to pump failure, causing the vehicle to stall in motion.