It was a good year for the Ford Motor Company: sales of Ford and Lincoln products climbed 4.7 percent to an impressive 2,250,165 units. That’s after the same two brands posted a combined 1.9-percent sales increase in December, up to 214,222 units. We’ve posted a couple of winners and losers — as well as two that are too close to call — below.
Undisputed Winner: Ford F-Series (645,316 Units in 2012, +10.3%)
The mighty Ford F-Series pickup found 645,316 new homes in 2012, up 10.3 percent from 2011; in December alone, F-Series sales edged up 0.7 percent to 68,787 units. With numbers like that, the F-Series is not just the most popular truck in the U.S. but the most popular vehicle on sale today. No stranger from finding new and inventive ways to brag about its sales lead, Ford claims that Ford dealers sold one new F-Series truck every 49 seconds in 2012 (down from 54 seconds in 2011 and a molasses-like 60 seconds in 2010). Furthermore, Ford says that if you stretched every F-Series truck sold in 2012 end to end, you’d cover the distance from Los Angeles to Savannah; we say that doing so would create the world’s most pointless (but impressive) traffic jam.
Winner: Ford Mustang (82,995 Units in 2012, +17.8%)
The Mustang was refreshed for 2013, rocking HID headlights, LED taillights, and various other tweaks throughout. It turns out that refresh brought a few new fans to the Mustang party: the pony car climbed 9.5 percent in December to 5,537 units, and closed out 2012 up 17.8 percent to 82,995 units. Nobody tell Ford, however, that the Mustang’s chief rival — the Chevrolet Camaro — eked out a win last year with 84,391 sales.
Winner: Ford Focus (245,922 Units in 2012, +40%); Loser (with promise): Ford Fiesta (56,775 Units in 2012, -17.2%)
If you take a look at Ford’s sales sheet, you may be fooled into thinking that Ford customers are primarily people looking at big trucks with comparatively low MPG figures. But the third most popular Ford vehicle last year was the cute, efficient Focus — Ford sold 245,922 of them in 2012, 40 percent more than 2011. Focus sales are so good, in fact, they seem to cannibalize Fiesta sales: the Fiesta was down 17.2 percent in 2012, to 56,775 units. Blame the almighty dollar: the Focus and Fiesta, in most trim levels, are just too close in price and fuel economy. Add some incentives and low-APR financing and it’s possible to get a Focus — a bigger, faster car than the Fiesta — for only a few dollars more. But Ford’s doubled down on the Fiesta, releasing a 2014 model with a segment-exclusive turbocharged I-3 engine and some new looks. We won’t see those models for a while, but the Fiesta did jump 52.8 percent in December to 5612 units sold.
Winner and Loser: Lincoln MKT (7094 Units in 2012, +41.2%)
The Lincoln MKT had a much better 2012 than 2011: Lincoln sold 7094 units in 2012, 41.2 percent higher than the year prior. Sales in December 2012 were up 13.8 percent to 653 sales. But there are two problems. On one hand, the MKT didn’t outsell the Navigator: the full-size SUV sold 1082 units in December and 8371 total in 2012, dwarfing the MKT’s totals. The other problem is that the MKT–the spiritual successor to the dead Town Car–isn’t filling the void left by the old executive car. In 2011, the moribund Town Car sold 9460 units, but last year it was down to 1001–the MKT will have to have another amazing record breaking year in 2013 just to keep up with lost Town Car sales, and we’re not sure it’s headed in that direction.
The Jury is Out: Escape (261,008 Units in 2012, +2.6%), Fusion (241,263 Units in 2012, -2.7%)
There’s no denying that the Escape and Fusion are very important models for Ford: they’re the number two and the number four best-selling Blue Oval vehicles, respectively (F-Series is one, Focus is three). Both had relatively good years: the Escape sold 261,008 units in 2012, up 2.6 percent, while the Fusion slipped 2.7 percent to a still-respectable 241,263 units.
The issue is this: both the 2013 Escape and 2013 Fusion, with their world-car status and European design, are departures from their former, blockier, American-market-exclusive models that were still on sale in 2012. Furthermore, it would appear Ford is going for higher transaction prices with the new models (which feature more expensive technologies like turbocharged, direct-injected engines and active safety features). The Escape was down 21.3 percent in December to 20,131 units, while the Fusion slid 10.8 percent to 19,283 units during the same time period. It’s too early to say if it’s just the squeeze of selling out of old models while new ones are delivered, a lack of big incentives on new models, both, or neither. Keep your eyes on the duo in 2013.
By Ben Timmins