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Ford sales fall 27% in June amid lingering chip shortage, tightening inventories

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Amid a lingering semiconductor chip shortage that has resulted in widespread production shutdowns and dwindling new-vehicle inventories, hard-hit Ford Motor Co. fell behind in the competitive truck segment and U.S. sales overall in the second quarter.

The Dearborn automaker on Friday reported that its June new-vehicle sales in the U.S., which totaled 115,789, were down 26.9% from a year ago, when sales were just beginning to come back amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In this Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, file photo, the company logo hangs over a row of 2020 F-150 pickup trucks at a Ford dealership, in Denver. The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Ford Motor Co. can be sued in the state courts of people who were killed or seriously injured in accidents involving Ford vehicles.

For the second quarter, Ford's sales of 475,327 vehicles were up about 9.5% from a year ago when the pandemic closed many businesses, including dealerships, but down nearly 27% from 2019. Through the first half of the year, the Blue Oval's sales were up 4.9%.

The automaker has said that it expected to bear the brunt of the chip shortage fallout in the second quarter, and experts have said they expect the crisis to ease throughout the second half of the year.

But as it's battled through, Ford has lost market share to its crosstown competition and foreign automakers alike.

Ford even ceded the truck wars — long dominated by the best-selling F-Series franchise — to General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV in the second quarter, with F-Series sales of 158,235 coming in below Ram's 164,232 and Chevy Silverado's 164,731.

"It was a very tough quarter for Ford," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader. "They are really struggling with the chip shortage and low inventories, and that showed up in the sales.”

Meanwhile, GM on Thursday reported second-quarter sales of 688,236, for a 40% increase over last year. Stellantis, maker of Ram trucks and Jeep SUVs, came in ahead of Ford with 485,312 sales, a 32% increase over the same period last year. 

June sales

Ford's sales were down across all of its segments in June, with truck sales of 63,129 marking a 27% year-over-year drop and SUV sales falling 11.5% to 49,792.

In a statement, Andrew Frick, vice president of Ford sales for the U.S. and Canada, highlighted the automaker's retail sales being up 10.7% through the first half of the year and Ford's push into electrification.

"With constrained inventories and record turn rates in the second quarter, we have been working closely with our dealers gathering retail orders, which are up 16-fold over last year," he said. "Reservations for F-150 Lightning have now surpassed 100,000 since the truck was first shown in May, while Ford’s sales of electrified vehicles produced a new all-time first half sales record with 56,570 vehicles sold — up 117% over year ago.” 

In another electric milestone, Ford's new, all-electric Mustang Mach-E outsold the gasoline-powered Mustang for the first time. Mach-E recorded 2,465 sales in June, inching above Mustang's 2,240 sales. Mach-E sales were up 26.7% from May.

The new Bronco Sport SUV had 8,355 sales in June and more than 60,500 through June. June was the first month in which sales of the all-new full-size Bronco SUV were reported; Bronco recorded 801 sales.

Among those early sales was Ross Musick, 36, of the Columbus, Ohio area. Musick earlier this week traded in his 2013 Ford Flex with 188,000 miles on it in favor of the four-door, cactus gray Bronco he'd long been awaiting.

Just a few days in, Musick said the new ride has proven popular with his four children and with other motorists who stop to check out the SUV and talk to him about it.

"I wanted it to be something fun to drive the family around," said Musick. "Sometimes the only family time we get is a couple of us together driving to a baseball tournament or softball game or something. So if we’re going to have a two-hour drive, we might as well make it fun — and so far that’s working out beautifully.”

Ross Musick's new Ford Bronco.

Meanwhile, sales of F-Series, Ford's best-selling truck franchise and its profit engine, were off nearly 30% year-over-year in June, with 45,673 sales. Through the first half of the year, F-Series sales of 362,032 marked a 1.5% dip from 2020.

F-Series sales faltering, said Krebs, is "very significant, because the F-150 is the bread and butter in terms of revenue and profits for Ford. They need that to be strong, and it’s had a weak run here.”

Sales of the Transit commercial van were down 45.6% in June. Sales of the Ranger pickup truck fell 3.7%. 

In Ford's SUV segment, Escape was down 39.9%, Explorer was down 38%, and Expedition was up 42.8%.

Lincoln sales, totaling 4,903, were down more than 43%. Through the first half of the year, they're up 4.4%. Ford reported that Lincoln SUVs posted a new first-half record.

Sales of the Lincoln Navigator SUV were up 15.5% while sales of the Aviator were down 37.3.%

Ford's average transaction prices were up $6,400 over a year ago, to $47,800 per vehicle, an increase the automaker attributed to record turn rates and the new vehicles it's introduced in recent months.

Chip challenges

Detroit automakers, including Ford, have been among the hardest hit by the chip shortage — and it's beginning to show up in their market shares.

Toyota for the first time ever beat out GM as the No. 1 sales leader in the U.S. in the second quarter. It was the first time since 1998 that another automaker surpassed GM, according to Edmunds.com Inc.

Ahead of the release of second-quarter sales, Edmunds forecast that Ford's market share dropped to 10.7% from 14.7% last year. The actual market share shakeout from the second quarter has not yet been determined.

But with second quarter U.S. sales of 486,419, Honda Motor Co. beat out Ford.

The production losses Ford has seen this year are reflected in its inventory levels. The automaker said Friday that it has gross stock of 162,000 vehicles, down from 187,000 last month and 475,000 last year. 

Forecasting firm AutoForecast Solutions estimates that Ford has lost 477,559 units of planned vehicle production so far this year in North America. The automaker has said it could lose as much as 1.1 million units of planned production globally this year due to the shortage.

And earlier this week, it announced extended downtime throughout July at eight of its North American plants.

Overall, industry analysts say that the strong sales pace the industry has seen this year began to falter in June due to the lack of inventory, a trend that is likely to continue through the summer. 

IHS Markit estimated that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new vehicle sales in the U.S. hit between 15.3 million and 15.8 million last month, down from 17 million in May.

"Inventory pressures are being felt industry-wide, but the incoming June figures point to a few automakers that may have realized stronger sales pinches than others," Chris Hopson, IHS Markit's manager of North American light vehicle forecast, said in a statement Thursday.

"While we expect improvement from an inventory side of the equation as the industry progresses through the second half of the year," he added, "there’s not much relief likely to be realized in July or August.”  


Twitter: @JGrzelewski