Ford Focus sales continued their downward spiral in August, as one of
the C-car’s top competitors, the Chevrolet Cruze, gained momentum.
In August, Focus sales were off 12.4% from year-ago to 14,093, based
on 26 selling days vs. 25 in like-2010, according to Wards data.
Cruze deliveries for the month totaled 21,807.
The Focus started out slowly this year, with just 9,014 deliveries in
January. Momentum began building in the spring, with sales reaching a
high of 22,303 units in May.
But volume began to decline in late summer, and Focus sales failed to
top 14,889 last month.
George Pipas, the auto maker’s top U.S. sales analyst, says supply,
not demand, remains the issue.
“In the month of July, we had 5,500 Focuses on the ground,” Pipas
tells WardsAuto. “That’s a very low inventory position that was
exacerbated by our normal (production) shutdown the first two weeks
“By comparison, a year-ago at end of July, we had 27,000 Focuses on
the ground,” he says.
Launch of the redesigned model at a new plant – a converted truck
operation in Wayne, MI – also has contributed to the supply
“In the launch of a new vehicle, there’s always reasons why (there’s a
slow ramp-up),” he says, listing parts shortages and process changes
“It’s all of your suppliers and your materials and a new assembly
plant all getting on the same page during launch,” Pipas adds. “It’s
that way for everybody.”
In addition, rising gasoline prices sent demand “through the roof,” he
Focus inventory at the end of August was 7,500 units, a number
expected to increase as the year progresses.
“By the fourth-quarter, we think we’ll get (Focus) inventories up to
25,000-30,000, but some of that depends upon demand,” Pipas says,
noting August marked the highest monthly production of the car so far
The Focus continues to play an important role in Ford’s lineup, says
Ken Czubay, vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service.
“One in six Focus sales are to Millennials (18 to 34 years of age),
and that’s important,” he says in a conference call with analysts and
“The average age of Focus buyers is eight years younger than the prior
model, and the ’12 Focus customer is more likely to come from
California and trade in an import brand than the previous model,” he
Ford avoided supply issues with its other hot-selling small car, the
Fiesta, which posted a 69.1% increase in August to 53,258 units.
Pipas says the Fiesta’s situation is opposite from the Focus.
Comparisons with year-ago are more favorable because the car was in
short supply during its early launch phase in like-2010.
Other hot-selling cars include the aging Ford Crown Victoria, with
deliveries jumping 131.5% to 4,879.
A longtime favorite of police and government agencies, Ford recently
ceased production of the fullsize sedan, and fleet operators are
scrambling to replace their older vehicles.
Coupled with strong Fusion sales, up 21.0% to 17,709, the Crown
Victoria helped drive Ford’s overall August light-vehicle sales to
172,607, a 7.0% gain.
On the truck side, sales were mixed. Explorer SUV deliveries soared
284.8% to 9,901, but volume for the bread-and-butter F-150 declined
1.3% to 46,602.
Czubay says the F-150’s results are close to the 50,000-unit range
Ford considers a good month for the fullsize pickup.
Demand for the 3.5L direct-injected turbocharged V-6 EcoBoost engine
continues to rise among F-150 buyers.
The EcoBoost and 3.7L normally aspirated V-6 also were installed in
57% of all F-150s sold at retail in August, with the EcoBoost
accounting for 75% of that total.
“And the incoming (dealer) order rate for V-6s is over 60%,” Pipas
says. “So maybe we haven’t seen the high point for (EcoBoost) yet.”