Ford sales down 14.1% in February amid pandemic, winter storms and an ongoing chip shortage

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.'s sales were down 14.1% year-over-year in February, an already-slow sales month that likely was dragged down further by winter storms, a major parts shortage and the still-raging pandemic.

The Blue Oval on Wednesday reported total U.S. sales of 163,520 new vehicles last month, down from 190,225 in February 2020 — the last normal sales month before the novel coronavirus pandemic widely hit the U.S. Ford's retail sales, however, were down only 1.8% year-over-year.

Industry analysts had expected a relatively strong sales month for autos in February, but Cox Automotive reported Wednesday that the estimated monthly sales pace of 15.7 million came in below its forecast, which it attributed largely to the winter weather that hampered sales in many parts of the country. Last February, the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales was 16.8 million.

February — already a challenging sales month due to fewer selling days and post-holiday spending reductions, Cox noted — was dragged down by continued uncertainty and hardship due to the pandemic and the freeze that hit Texas and other parts of the country. Cox reported that Texas accounts for one out of every 11 vehicle sales in the U.S.

Ford, along with other automakers, faced numerous production disruptions last month due to both the winter weather and an ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips.

Still, analysts are optimistic about the auto market heading into the spring, particularly with the prospect of another federal stimulus and the country's accelerating distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

"We're likely to see a very strong spring in the vehicle market; the only limiters to the sale potential are going to be the tight supply and record prices," Cox's Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said in a statement.

Ford's sales were down across much of its vehicle lineup, though retail sales helped buoy the overall results. Overall truck sales were down 3.6%, to 88,787, but the segment posted a 10.2% improvement in retail sales. SUV sales of 66,217 were down 10.2%, with retail sales up 0.2%.

Meanwhile, the automaker sold only 8,516 cars in the U.S. in February, a reflection of the company phasing out sedans in favor of profit-rich SUVs and trucks.

The automaker noted that February brought a record number of sales of electrified vehicles. The Blue Oval recently debuted its first fully battery-electric offering, the Mustang Mach-E; February marked the first full month of sales for the new SUV with 3,739 units sold. One-fifth of those sales were in California, where electric vehicles are more widely adopted.

Sales of the new hybrid version of the F-150, as well as hybrid versions of the Escape and Explorer, helped push electrified vehicle sales up 56.1% from a year ago, when the automaker's electrified offerings were more limited. The automaker reported that hybrid F-150 sales were up 40% from January of this year.

"The all-new F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid and the fully electric Mustang Mach-E lifted Ford to an all-new February electrified vehicle sales record," Andrew Frick, Ford's vice president of sales in the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement. "The all-new Bronco Sport and Mustang Mach-E worked to deliver our best February retail Ford SUV sales in 20 years. Our newest products have been game-changers in the electrified vehicle and SUV space for both our dealers and customers."

During last month's deep freeze in the South, Ford assisted by telling its dealers in Texas to loan out generator-equipped F-150s to Texans in need of a power source.

“When Texans were out of power, the nation started seeing stories of owners of the all-new Ford F-150 pickup using their on-board generators to power their houses," Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Cox's AutoTrader, said in a statement. "That was marketing gold for Ford, as it perfectly fits their Build Ford Tough image. Ford has been battling some negative news lately on quality and recalls, so I am sure the good news was welcome indeed.”

Though Ford reported that its flagship truck franchise, F-Series, picked up retail sales and share, overall F-Series sales were down 1.4%. The new 2021 F-150 — which is debuting a design refresh — spent an average of 19 days on dealer lots last month.

Sales of the new Bronco Sport SUV totaled 5,526. Ford recently announced recalls of some new F-150s and Bronco Sports. 

Among Ford-branded SUVs, EcoSport and Escape sales were each down by about one-third. Edge sales were down nearly 50%. Sales of the popular Explorer SUV were down just 2%.

Meanwhile, total Lincoln brand sales were down 22%. The Lincoln Navigator SUV was a bright spot, with sales up to 1,715 from 1,420 in February 2020. But every other Lincoln vehicle was down for the month; Aviator SUV sales were down 18.4%.

And in a reflection of the production disruptions the automaker experienced last month, Ford reported that F-150 production at Kansas City Assembly was down nearly 30% from January.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski