Ford Motor Company (F 4.16%) said on Nov. 3 that it sold more vehicles in the U.S. than anyone else for the second-straight month in October, as the company continued to rebuild its inventories amid an ongoing global shortage of automotive semiconductors. Although Ford's October U.S. sales were down about 4% from a year ago, its decline was much smaller than most rivals, allowing it to gain share in its most important and most profitable market.

What Ford said about its October U.S. sales

  • Ford gained market share again in October. September was a good month for Ford, relatively speaking, but October was even better: Ford's retail sales rose 16% month over month, and its retail-market share rose 1.6 percentage points to an estimated 14.5%.
  • More customers are ordering Fords. The company's efforts to encourage retail customers to order their vehicles continued to bear fruit. Ford took about 77,000 retail orders for new vehicles in October, up by about 25,000 from September. 
  • 32% of Ford's retail sales in October came from previously placed customer orders. (A year ago, it was just 6%.)
  • Overall F-Series sales fell, but retail sales jumped. Overall sales of the F-Series pickup line, Ford's most important product, fell 4.7% from a year ago. But retail sales of the big pickups rose 14% from September as Ford prioritized higher-profit retail sales over commercial-fleet deliveries. 
  • SUV sales gained on Broncos, Mach-E. Ford's overall SUV sales were actually up (almost 13%) from a year ago, on high demand for the new Bronco, Bronco Sport, and electric Mustang Mach-E models. Ford delivered 2,848 Mustang Mach-Es in the U.S. in October and has delivered about 21,700 to U.S. customers year to date. 
  • Ford is rebuilding its inventories. "Gross stock," Ford's term for the number of vehicles available on its dealers' lots, totaled about 243,000 vehicles as of the end of October. That's still well short of Ford's historical norms but up by about 7,000 from the end of September, and better than most rivals, putting Ford in position to continue to gain market share in November. 
An orange Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, a high-performance electric crossover SUV.

Despite severe chip-related production constraints, Ford has delivered almost 22,000 electric Mustang Mach-Es to U.S. customers this year -- and well over 50,000 globally. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

How Ford's October sales compared with rivals

Not all automakers report U.S. sales monthly -- General Motors and some others only report quarterly results -- but of those that do, Ford was the clear sales leader. Only corporate cousins Hyundai and Kia, which operate through a joint U.S. distribution network, reported a smaller year-over-year sales decline than Ford. 

Metric October 2021 October 2020 Change (Decline)
Ford  174,464 181,820 (4%)
Toyota 146,671 205,349 (28.6%)
Hyundai and Kia 114,128 114,543 (0.4%)
Honda 97,083 126,987 (23.5%)
Subaru 36,817 61,411 (40%)
Mazda 19,519 22,736 (14.1%)
Volvo Cars 8,710 10,691 (18.6%)

Data source: The automakers, Automotive News.

What it means for Ford investors

Simply put, while Ford (like all automakers) can't get all the chips it would like, it has good supplies right now -- and apparently, better supplies than key rivals like Toyota and GM. As long as the industry's output remains constrained, that's a great situation for Ford. It can ship more vehicles than rivals and sell them at strong prices, gaining both market share and points of profit margin.

That happy situation won't last forever, of course, as CFO John Lawler acknowledged during last week's earnings call. At some point, supplies of chips and vehicles will begin to normalize and Ford's relative pricing power will be diminished. 

But as of right now, it seems likely that the chip shortage will continue through at least the first half of 2022 -- meaning that Ford and the auto investors holding its stock might be able to reap the benefits of relatively good supplies for another few quarters.