Ford posts 8.3% sales slump in January, but retail demand helped offset losses

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. reported Wednesday that its new-vehicle sales in the U.S. dropped 8.3% — to 143,578 units — in January compared to the same month in 2020.

Still, the Dearborn automaker posted a 5.5% increase in sales to retail customers, driven by strong truck and SUV sales. Retail truck sales were up 9.9% while retail SUV sales rose 13.4% year-over-year.

For 2021, the Ford F-150 gets a new lineup that includes six trims and six engine options.

The Blue Oval reported it was the best-ever January start for Ford-brand SUVs, which the company attributed in part to the launch of the new Bronco Sport late last year, Meanwhile, Lincoln SUVs had their best retail start in 20 years. 

"January embodies the continued momentum we see for 2021, thanks to a new lineup of must-have products, including F-150, Bronco Sport, Mustang Mach-E and later this year — Bronco," Andrew Frick, Ford's vice president of sales for the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement. "We’re seeing customers and dealers excited about the new content and features we’re offering, and we look forward to delivering for them.”

Overall, Ford's truck sales were down 8.6% while SUVs were up 7.6%.

The automaker sold a total of 8,050 Bronco Sports in January, and reported that the vehicle is spending an average of just 11 days on dealer lots. The full-size Bronco SUV is scheduled to launch this summer.

The January report included 238 sales of the new, Mexico-built Mustang Mach-E, which is in the midst of launching. The Ford Explorer SUV continued to be a strong point for the automaker, with sales for the month up 11.1%, to 18,095 units.

Sales of the automaker's profit-rich F-Series were down 5.5%. Two months into the launch of the new 2021 F-150, Ford reported the truck is selling at a "record" pace of 13 days on dealer lots, while posting a retail sales jump of 6.4%. 

Super Duty retail sales were up 17% for the month, while the automaker's smaller truck, the Ranger, saw its best retail sales start since 2005 with a year-over-year increase of 4.8%. 

Overall, Lincoln sales were down 12.2% for the month. Bright spots included sales of the Lincoln Corsair/MKC and Navigator SUVs, which were up 7.3% and 8.7%, respectively.

The results come as Ford undertakes one of its most significant updates ever of its portfolio. As the automaker phases out sedans in North America in favor of an all-SUV and truck lineup, it's in the midst of launching several key new products, including a redesigned version of its flagship F-150 pickup, its first all-electric offering with Mustang Mach-E, and the resurrected Bronco.

They also come as the Blue Oval — along with the rest of the auto industry — navigates a complex parts issue amid a global shortage of the microchips used to power many of the automated and electronic features in vehicles. Ford has had numerous production disruptions as a result of the shortage, including the idling this week of two out of three shifts at its Chicago Assembly Plant that builds the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator.

Ford is the only Detroit automaker that currently releases sales numbers on a monthly basis; General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV release them quarterly. The Blue Oval is scheduled to release financial results for the fourth quarter of 2020 on Thursday.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski