Ford Motor Company’s January U.S. sales increased 22%, ahead of overall market growth of 14%. The increases were particularly noteworthy in trucks, with the F-series pickup selling 47,000 units, a 22% increase year-over-year, and its18th straight month of sales increases.
The truck recovery at Ford, as well as Dodge and GM, is coming as the ailing U.S. economy slowly recovers in the face of years demonstrated incompetence from politicians living at great taxpayer expense in Washington DC.
U.S. vehicle sales results – a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economy, were announced at the same time as January unemployment numbers were being touted by Democrats as progress – although they were stomach turning once again, at an official rate above 8%. (Not that the obstructionist Republican party has any helpful suggestions on how to stop this ongoing national tragedy.) This waste of human resources and productivity – in a strict sense – is not the auto industry’s problem, let alone multi-national Ford’s, although executives are grateful that of the people who do have jobs, roughly 80% of them drive to work in a car or light truck and the old ones, eventually, wear out.
The second best seller in the Ford line was the new Fusion sedan at 22,000, the best January ever, followed closely by the Escape at 20,000, also its best January ever with sales increasing 16%, perhaps because its styling and a long overdue freshening with improved fuel economy follows that of the leader in the segment, the Honda CRV, which sold 18,000 during the month.
The Fusion and Escape are apparently coated with Teflon as standard equipment, since reputation damaging multiple recalls after their launch, including engine fires affecting both, were ignored by buyers of the European-based vehicles that were redesigned for 2013 without the help of former subsidiary Mazda.
One area the recalls did hurt Ford is the Fusion’s loss of North American Car of the Year award to the Cadillac ATS announced at NAIAS in January. My conversations with jurors revealed a great deal of skepticism about Ford’s ongoing quality problems, which knocked the otherwise competent Fusion out of the running. (Read Ford Changes Software to Stop New Escape and Fusion Fires and Another Ford Fire Recall on New Escape and Now Fusion Models)
Sadly, from a strong Ford brand sales point of view, things are much less sanguine at Lincoln. With sales of 4,200 re-badged Ford models, the quasi luxury brand was off -18% y-o-y, in spite of an expensive new ad campaign, which is trying to do the impossible – revive Lincoln without a stunning new car that has credibility in a luxury segment dominated by Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi – all of them global in reach.
The hint to Lincoln’s possible revival is contained in the styling of one of the pre-war cars used in the TV spots, as well as the 1960s suicide door Continental that is also fleetingly depicted. If Lincoln had a car or two so distinctive, and if it had revived the Town Car in a segment it owned instead of killing it last year, then the debate about when the funeral will be held would be, if not unnecessary, at least moot. Is it time to start work on the Tomb of the Unknown Brand in Dearborn? (The former Rotunda site is available.) The MKZ version of the new Fusion sold but 453 copies as the launch ramp up is apparently still underway.