Ford Motor Co. sales slid 1.6 percent in the first three months of 2019, the automaker reported Thursday. Most automakers saw U.S. sales slip in that same time period.

Most of rest of the industry reported sales results Tuesday. General Motors Co. sales were down 7 percent for the first quarter compared to a year ago, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV was off 3 percent.

Tesla Inc. said late Wednesday its sales fell 31 percent from the previous quarter. It delivered 63,000 vehicles, well behind the pace of CEO Elon Musk’s pledge to build 500,000 cars annually.

Like other carmakers, Ford is combating external market issues like rising interest rates and sticker shock at new-car prices. But it is facing its own challenges as it adjusts its lineup.

The automaker is cutting sedans from its stable. As it stops producing vehicles that were in the lineup a year ago with no immediate replacements, sales are expected to slip. Ford will launch new Explorer and Escape SUVs as well as a new Lincoln Aviator later this year to give new life to some of its stalwarts.

"As we transition out of cars, we expect some volatility," said Mark LaNeve, Ford sales chief. The automaker expects new SUV launches later this year to temper the exit from the sedan segment. Ford is already seeing average transaction prices increase as it sells more trucks and SUVs than traditional cars.

Lincoln brand sales jumped 11.2 percent in the first quarter on the back of the new or updated SUVs and fleet sales. Ford sales slid due in part to the vehicles it's phasing out of the lineup. Focus sales were off more than 70 percent.

LaNeve said the automaker typically sees higher fleet sales early in the year, but Ford is not expecting to lean on fleet sales in 2019. The automaker should finish the year with rental fleet sales down slightly. 

The automaker only sold 17 C-Max vehicles. The Taurus, the last of which rolled off the line at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant in the first quarter, had a sales drop 25 percent.

Meanwhile, Ford's trucks and vans continued to sell. The F-Series had a small sales uptick: Dealers moved 214,611 of the trucks, roughly 500 more than the same period a year ago.

Transit Connect sales grew 34.7 percent. Ford also moved 9,421 Ranger mid-size trucks in the first quarter, which were the first sales months for the all-new pickup.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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