Declining interest in passenger cars dragged down Ford Motor Co.’s first-quarter U.S. sales, as the carmaker revamps its lineup to capture a shift in consumer preference towards pickups and sports utility vehicles.
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Sales at the Dearborn, Michigan-based company fell 1.6 percent in the three months through March to 590,249 units, it said in Thursday's report. Passenger car sales fell 23.7 percent to just over 98,000, while truck and SUV sales rose 4.1 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
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“We have a close connection with our customers, allowing us to deliver what they need in their trucks. It can also be seen in our record sales of Ford SUVs as well as Lincoln’s significant growth,” said Ford Vice President Mark LaNeve.
The F-Series pickup truck continued to dominate, beating its nearest competitor by 95,585 units, according to Ford. The average transaction price grew slightly to $47,454.
Overall, Ford's average transaction cost was 38,000, an over $1,800 year-over-year increase that was largely due to the shift to SUVs and trucks that have a higher price point than passenger cars.
"The industry showed very good discipline with incentives down slightly in Q1 year-over-year at about 10 percent of selling price across the industry," LaNeve said.
Ford also sold 9,421 Ford Rangers, making it the company’s best quarter of pickup sales in 15 years. The company was forced to issue a recall of 3,500 of the newly shipped midsize pickups in February.
While sales of Lincoln-branded passenger cars fell 16.6 percent, SUV sales rose 23.2 percent.
Ford expects some economic slowdown in 2019, but the company believes it will stay positive overall with potential growth in the first quarter as high as 2 percent, according to chief economist Emily Kolinski Morris.
"Economic conditions are consistent and supportive of our guidance" of vehicles sales in the "low 17 million unit range," she told investors.
At rival General Motors, sales fell 7 percent to 665,840 vehicles. Sales at Fiat Chrysler dropped 3 percent to 498,425.