Ford reports 4.5% year-over-year sales decline in May amid industrywide drop

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Amid a broader industry drop in auto sales for the month of May, Ford Motor Co. on Thursday reported that it sold 154,461 vehicles in the U.S. last month — down 4.5% from May 2021.

Still, Ford outperformed the industry. Other automakers that report sales on a monthly basis posted steep declines last month. 

Hyundai Motor America, for example, reported May retail sales of 59,432 vehicles, a 30% decrease from May 2021. And American Honda reported that its May sales were limited by what it described as the "lowest on-hand inventory in recent history."

For more than a year, the global automotive industry has been constrained by a semiconductor shortage that has curtailed production. In May, American Honda posted 75,491 sales — down more than 57% from a year ago.

Ahead of the sales releases this week, industry forecasters expected to see declines amid tight inventory levels and high prices.

Cox Automotive analysts expected U.S. auto sales to drop to their lowest level of the year, and on Wednesday said their estimates of a slow month appeared to track with the numbers reported this week. Cox forecast that new-vehicle sales would be down 28% year-over-year in May — an expected drop analysts attributed to high prices, low inventory and last month having fewer selling days than May 2021.

A Cox analysis found that, industrywide, there was only a 36-day supply of new vehicles at the start of May. Analysts also pointed to rising interest rates and increases in monthly car payments as headwinds that likely are starting to batter demand that, throughout the pandemic, has held up well.

“Historically, the daily sales pace is higher in May than in most other months, with spring optimism in the air, thoughts of summer road trips on the horizon, and the buzz of Memorial Day sales,” Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, said in a statement last week. “But many of the industry’s normal patterns have been overturned by tight inventory and the lingering effect of the global pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Ford's SUV sales of 76,625 units were down 4.4% year-over-year. Truck sales were off 1.4%.

The automaker's sales of battery-electric vehicles continued to grow. May BEV sales of 6,254 units marked a nearly 222% increase over May 2021. And the all-electric Mustang Mach-E posted a new monthly sales record, with sales of 5,179 units up 166% over last year.

E-Transit, an all-electric version of Ford's popular cargo van, had its best monthly sales performance — 874 units sold — since launching earlier this year. And F-150 Lightning, the all-electric version of America's most popular vehicle that launched in April, recorded 201 sales at the end of May, with "many more" in transit, according to Ford.

Cox Automotive analysts said Wednesday that electrified vehicle sales across the industry continue to outpace overall sales.

As Ford continues to emphasize its retail order bank, the automaker said that nearly 50% of retail sales were made up of previously placed orders last month — up from about 9% at this point last year.

Sales of F-Series, Ford's flagship pickup truck line, were up 6.9% year-over-year. The Ford Maverick, which launched last fall, recorded 6,089 sales last month. Ford reported that the compact pickup turned on dealer lots in five days, on average, and saw 97% of its retail sales come from previously placed orders in May. 

In the SUV segment under the Ford brand, sales of the EcoSport, Bronco Sport, Escape and Expedition were down from May 2021. Sales of the Edge and Explorer were up, along with Mustang Mach-E. For the month, the Bronco SUV had 9,475 sales.

Lincoln brand sales were down 6.8% year-over-year in May.

Year-to-date, Ford's sales are down 13.3% from the same period last year.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski