Ford falls to fourth place in domestic auto sales behind GM, Toyota,
For the first time, Ford Motor Co. has fallen to fourth place in domestic
monthly auto sales.
Ford in January sold fewer vehicles than General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor
Sales U.S.A. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group.
In part, the milestone slump at Ford can be credited to the automaker's
deliberate decision to slash unprofitable sales to daily-rental fleets. But
Ford's lackluster product offerings also are to blame, analysts say.
Chrysler edged past Ford by 2,104 units, selling 156,308 cars and trucks in
January. Ford sold 154,204 Lincoln, Mercury and Ford vehicles in the same
GM eclipsed both with its 244,435 units, but Toyota maintained second place
with sales of 175,850 cars and trucks -- up 5 percent from last year.
Wooing buyers with special deals helped Chrysler last month, said David
Healy, an industry analyst for Burnham Financial Group.
"Chrysler's success was due as much to heavy incentivizing as anything,"
said Healy. "They were extremely aggressive, particularly on older models
like the Durango SUV and the Ram pickup truck."
By contrast, he said, Ford's product offerings just aren't driving demand.
"Ford has been bombarding us with high-quality, well-designed, exceedingly
dull automobiles for the last few years," he said. "Their market is marching
away. And they are in a lull in new product introductions."
Ford also was fourth in overall sales, posting a 19 percent decline.
GM said its January U.S. auto sales dropped 16.6 percent.
But Toyota Motor Corp.'s sales rose 9.5 percent to again surpass Ford's
monthly sales, while DaimlerChrysler AG's sales rose 3.2 percent compared
with January 2006,
This year, Toyota is expected to take Ford's No. 2 spot in U.S. sales after
its sales surpassed Ford's in two months last year. The Japanese automaker
sold 175,850 vehicles last month, including 100,256 cars and 75,594 trucks.
On Wednesday, Ford warned that it expected to post a 20 percent drop
compared with January 2006. And GM had said last week that it expected its
January sales to be down, also because of lower rental fleet sales.
"We are aggressively reducing our daily rental fleet sales as a continuing
element of our strategy to offer industry-leading value and improve
residuals," Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president for sales, service and
marketing, said in a statement.
GM's car sales dropped 22.5 percent for the month to 104,156, while light
truck sales were down 11.5 percent to 140,458. In all, it sold 244,614 light
vehicles for the month, remaining No. 1 in sales.
GM also lowered its first-quarter North American production forecast from
guidance given last month by 40,000 vehicles, or 3.6 percent, to 1.1 million
vehicles. GM said it was part of the effort to reduce rental fleet sales. In
the first quarter of 2006, GM produced 1.3 million vehicles in the region.
Toyota's car sales were up 13.1 percent in January, while truck sales rose 5
percent. Toyota said sales, which include the Toyota and Lexus brands, were
the best ever for January. Sales of its Camry mid-sized car rose 14.7
percent to 31,461, while its hybrid Prius and RAV4 compact sport utility
vehicle also made gains.
Including imports, Ford sold 165,877 light vehicles in January. It sold
55,842 cars, down 32.5 percent from a year ago, and 110,035 light trucks,
down 9.8 percent. It said sales to daily rental companies dropped 65
percent. Ford said it remains focused on its North American turnaround and
returning to profitability.
"Where we are in sales races and sales rankings ... is a distraction that
we're not going to be bothered with," George Pipas, Ford's top sales
analyst, said during a conference call with industry analysts and reporters.
"We've got a job to do in North America, and that is all we're focused on."
While the decline in fleet sales hurts overall sales numbers, GM and Ford
have said the focus instead on sales to more-profitable retail customers is
part of their North American turnaround efforts.
Ford's sales to retail customers were down 5 percent for the month.
In the first full month of sales for its new crossovers, Ford reported it
sold 5,586 Ford Edges and 1,699 Lincoln MKXs. But sales of Ford's F-series
pickup truck were down about 15 percent from a year ago.
Ford said it expects weakness in new home construction to hurt full-size
pickup sales through the first half of the year. Its sales include Ford,
Lincoln and Mercury brands, as well as Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Jaguar
sales fell 13 percent, Land Rover sales fell 11.7 percent and Volvo sales
fell 7 percent.
Ford's fleet sales were expected to be lower because it no longer is selling
the Taurus -- once the nation's top-selling car. But Pipas said fleet
reductions also came in many current products.
DaimlerChrysler sold 173,377 vehicles in January. Mercedes-Benz sales rose
36.9 percent to 17,069 in January compared with the same month of 2006.
The gains came as Chrysler saw its best January in six years and Mercedes
reported its best January sales ever, DaimlerChrysler said. Chrysler said
its January sales were driven by solid retail sales, while fleet sales were
down, but a statement on the results didn't provide specific fleet numbers.
"With a fresh product lineup in dealer showrooms and eight new vehicle
launches to come in 2007, Chrysler Group is well positioned to remain
competitive in the marketplace," Michael Manley, vice president for sales
and dealer operations, said in a statement. "We will focus on providing
innovation, quality and value to our customers -- and we will also provide
our dealers with competitive tools to sell these vehicles."
Other automakers reporting January sales include:
a.. American Honda Motor Co; 100,790 units
a.. Kia Motors America; 22,524
a.. Hyundai Motor America; 27,721
a.. Subaru of America; 12,074 units
a.. Mitsubishi Motors North America; 9383
a.. Audi of America; 6,399 units
A person just good enough to hinder the retreat made necessary by their