Ford reports 10.5% sales drop in April as industry continues to battle chip shortage

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

As the global semiconductor chip shortage continues to curtail auto production and drag down sales across the industry, Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday reported a 10.5% year-over-year decline in U.S. sales in April.

The Dearborn automaker sold 176,965 vehicles last month as sales industrywide fell 17%. Competitors including American Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America and Hyundai Motor Co. earlier this week reported that their sales fell in April, as the industry continues to battle nagging supply-chain issues. General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV do not report sales figures monthly.

Still, Ford noted that it picked up a percentage point in U.S. market share last month as it saw its inventory flow to dealers improve. The company said during its first-quarter earnings report that the chip shortage and other supply-chain disruptions had hampered production in the first three months of the year, but that it started to see production improvements in March.

The automaker is now shipping the all-electric F-150 Lightning to dealers, though April's sales release did not include any sales figure for the truck.

“While industry semiconductor chip shortages persist, improved inventory flow in April delivered a significant share gain of 1.0 percentage point over a year ago with Ford outperforming the industry," Andrew Frick, vice president of sales, distribution and trucks, said in a statement. "Inventory flow bolstered stronger F-Series, Mustang Mach-E, E-Transit and record April Ford brand SUV sales. We are now shipping all models of the electric F-150 Lightning.”

Ford reported that sales of its electric vehicles increased 139% year-over-year in April on transactions for the Mustang Mach-E SUV and the E-Transit cargo van. Mach-E had its best monthly sales performance since it launched at the end of 2020, up 95% year-over-year, according to Ford.

Maverick, the compact pickup truck Ford launched last year, also reportedly had its best sales month to date, with more than 9,500 units sold. 

Year-to-date, Ford's sales are down 15.3% from the same period last year.

The automaker did see an increase in the SUV segment in April, however, with sales up 2.7% over April 2021. And Ford brand SUVs set a new April sales record with more than 83,500 units sold.

Sales of Ford's flagship truck lineup and profit driver, F-Series, were down 22.3% in April. Truck sales overall were off 17.8%.

Although rival GM doesn't report monthly sales, industry forecasting firm LMC Automotive said the Detroit automaker led April sales, was the only original equipment manufacturer to sell more than 200,000 units — and that its Chevrolet Silverado took the mantle of America's best-selling vehicle from Ford. 

"The Ford F-150, which traditionally holds the bestseller title, was outsold not only by the (Chevrolet) Silverado, but also by the Toyota RAV4," Augusto Amorim, senior manager of Americas vehicle sales forecasts for LMC Automotive, said in a statement Wednesday.

Industry forecasters had expected April sales to be held back by inventory constraints — and they were right. U.S. light vehicle sales dropped 17% year-over-year in April to 1.26 million units, LMC Automotive reported Wednesday. 

The decline was driven by low inventory levels, but LMC noted volumes were up over March and that sales reached their highest level so far this year. The seasonally adjusted annual rate reached 14.7 million units.

"As we progress through 2022 and into 2023, we do see supply and demand forces starting to balance out, leaving the consumer to drive the level of recovery by next year," Jeff Schuster, president of Americas operations and global vehicle forecasts for LMC, said in a statement. 

"If the Fed is able to orchestrate a soft landing, there could be some upside potential to the outlook in 2022 and 2023," he added (the Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised interest rates by half a percentage point). "That said, given the auto market has lost more than 7 million units of volume since 2020, there most certainly will be an element of demand destruction."

Twitter: @JGrzelewski