Ford’s US sales in the first quarter
Ford Motor Company (F) sold ~590,249 vehicle units in the US market in the first quarter of 2019. The data reflected a 6.9% decrease from its US sales of 599,581 units in the same quarter of 2018.
Ford’s first-quarter sales were higher than Japanese automaker Toyota’s (TM) first-quarter US sales of 543,716 units and Fiat Chrysler’s (FCAU) first-quarter US sales of 498,425 units. In the first quarter of 2018, Ford reported a steep 2.9% YoY (year-over-year) fall in its US sales.
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Ford stopped releasing its monthly US sales data after December 2018, following in the footsteps of General Motors (GM), which stopped reporting its monthly US sales after the first quarter of 2018.
Retail versus fleet sales
In its first-quarter US sales report, Ford didn’t reveal its total retail or fleet sales data. However, on its US sales conference call on April 4, the company’s vice president of US marketing of sales and service, Mark Raymond, noted that its retail sales had fallen while its fleet sales had risen in the quarter.
Raymond also added that based on Ford’s estimates, the US auto industry’s (XLY) total fleet sales rose ~8% YoY in the quarter, while the industry’s retail sales fell 5% in the quarter.
For auto companies, it’s important to keep the right balance between retail and fleet sales to protect profit margins and market share. Fleet sales typically result in weaker profit margins for auto companies compared to their retail sales. In the last few years, auto companies Ford, FCAU, GM, and TM have shifted their focuses to retail sales to protect their profit margins.
On the other hand, strong fleet sales help auto companies boost their market shares and revenues. Despite a rise in its fleet sales, a sharp increase in Ford’s fleet sales’ contribution to its total sales could be slightly negative for its first-quarter profitability.