Ford Is Riding Its Trucks and Big SUVs to Sales Gains as Smaller Models Lag

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) said that its U.S. sales rose 1.2% in June, on good sales of its newest SUVs and continued strong demand for its huge-selling F-Series pickups.

Year to date, Ford's sales are still down 1.8%, thanks to a weakening market for sedans and so-so results for its older SUV models.

How Ford fared against rivals

Here are the June sales results for the six largest-selling automakers in the U.S. market. The overall U.S. light-vehicle market rose 5.2% in June, according to figures from Automotive News, meaning that Ford's gain lagged the market's growth.

Automaker June 2018 U.S. Sales Change vs. June 2017
General Motors (NYSE: GM) 256,976 5.7%
Ford 230,635 1.2%
Toyota 209,602 3.6%
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE: FCAU) 202,264 8%
Honda 146,563 4.8%
Nissan 145,096 1.2%

High and low points from Ford's June sales report

The high points:

  • We have to start with the F-Series, Ford's "crown jewel" and the single biggest driver of its profits. F-Series sales rose 1.7% in June from a very good year-ago result, to 79,204 sold for the month.
  • The F-Series' average transaction price in June was a strong $46,800.
  • Sales of Ford-brand SUVs as a group rose 8.1% in June. Key drivers: Good gains for the compact Escape (up 6.4%) and big Expedition (up 10.1%), and the new EcoSport's best monthly result yet, with 6,756 sold.
  • Most Ford-brand cars struggled in June. A happy exception: Sales of the Mustang, which was revamped for 2018, were up 19.6% from a year ago.
  • Ford's year-over-year sales gain came despite a drop in overall fleet sales. The Blue Oval's U.S. retail sales rose 2.9% in June. Average transaction prices were up $540 from a year ago, suggesting that Ford's incentive use remains disciplined. That's good news for profit margins.
  • Sales of the Transit commercial van rose 25% from a year ago. While Ford's overall fleet sales were down, its sales to commercial fleets rose 6% last month.
  • Lincoln sales rose 2.8%, on good gains for its compact MKC and large Navigator SUVs. The Navigator is all-new and reviews have been strongly positive; sales were up 68.4% in June, and its average transaction price rose a whopping $27,000.
  • Sales of the Police Interceptor version of the Explorer rose 2.3% to 3,051 -- but sales of the police version of the Taurus sedan fell 13% to just 637. (The net result: Sales of Ford police vehicles fell by 26 units from a year ago.)
  • Sales of the super-expensive Ford GT sports car rose 22.2%, but don't get too excited: That's 11 GTs delivered in June, versus nine in June of 2017. Year to date, Ford has delivered 67 GTs, up from 21 in the first half of last year.

The not-so-high points:

  • Ford's sedans are still struggling. Sales of Ford-brand cars as a group fell 13.2% from (fairly poor) year-ago results; Lincoln's cars were down 26.6%. Only the tiny Fiesta managed a year-over-year sales gain.
  • Of note: After a strong debut, the Lincoln Continental is struggling. Ford sold just 546 in the U.S. in June, down 44% from a year ago.
  • Also of note: The Lincoln MKZ is a mechanical sibling of the soon-to-be-discontinued Ford Fusion. The two are made on the same production line. Ford hasn't said anything about the MKZ's fate, but its sales are down 32.5% year to date.

The upshot: Mixed results still suggest good profits

Ford's mixed-bag results for June followed similar results in April and May. For the second quarter, Ford's U.S. sales fell about 0.8% -- but within that result, and despite turbulence in the overall U.S. market, some profit-boosting trends remained intact for Ford.

For starters, F-Series sales rose 5.5% in the quarter, and average transaction prices remained strong -- both good signs for profitability. The big and super-profitable Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, both all new (and hugely improved) for 2018, continued to sell very well at strong prices. Commercial-vehicle sales remained strong, and sales of the Mustang rose 5% in the quarter.

Long story short: While the U.S. new-car market is showing signs of slipping, Ford's most profitable products continued to sell well in the second quarter, at what appear to be good prices. That's a good sign for Ford's profit in North America. We'll know more when the Blue Oval reports its second-quarter earnings on July 25.

10 stocks we like better than FordWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has quadrupled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Ford wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

Click here to learn about these picks!

*Stock Advisor returns as of June 4, 2018

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.