Ford sales slip in November

Ford Motor lost its traditional second spot in US vehicle sales last month, slumping to fourth place behind General Motors, Toyota and DaimlerChrysler.

The troubled Detroit-based carmaker’s sales fell by 9.6 per cent in November from a year earlier, due partly to an unexpectedly steep 16 per cent drop in demand for its F-Series pick-up truck, north America’s top-selling vehicle and one of the biggest contributors to Ford’s bottom line.

By contrast, GM’s sales grew by 6.1 per cent while Toyota reported its best-ever November, with a 15.9 per cent improvement. DaimlerChrysler, including the Detroit-based Chrysler group and Mercedes Benz, posted a 5 per cent increase.

Paul Ballew, GM’s sales analyst, said that overall vehicle demand remained weaker than expected. According to preliminary estimates, light-vehicle sales totaled 16.3m vehicles last month at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate, unchanged from October.

Toyota pulled ahead of Ford for the first time in July, but slipped back for the next three months. The Japanese carmaker’s star performer has been the small RAV4 sports-utility vehicle, whose sales have more than doubled in the past year.

George Pipas, Ford’s sales analyst, described November’s performance as disappointing, adding that the company had missed internal sales targets.

Besides the fall in pick-up sales, Mr Pipas said that the Ford had lagged in advertising new features on its mid-sized sedans.

Ford’s sales to car-rental and other fleet operators also fell markedly in line with a drive by all three Detroit-based carmakers to lower their dependence on these low-margin customers. GM reported a “a fairly substantial” improvement in prices on its rental-car sales.

Ford, which posted a $5.2bn third-quarter loss, has warned that its market share is likely to continue dropping for some time, partly reflecting lower fleet sales.

The sagging US housing market has dampened demand for pick-up trucks, many of which are used in construction work. But the launch of new GM and Toyota models are expected to buoy sales at Ford’s expense. Sales of big Chevrolet big pick-ups grew by 22.9 per cent last month.

Meanwhile, Chrysler unveiled plans this week to mail $1,000 coupons to 3m prospective customers in a continuing drive to bring down swollen inventories and generate interest in a slew of new models.

Edmunds.com, an online pricing service, estimates that Chrysler’s Jeep brand offered an average of $5,398 in perks for each vehicle last month, the highest of any brand.

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