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Why Ford's Sales Were Down in January

By John Rosevear – Feb 9, 2014 at 11:45AM

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Ford blamed cold weather for its sales decline. Should investors worry?

Sales of the Lincoln MKX were up over 35% in January, one of a few bright spots in a tough month for Ford. Photo credit: Ford Motor.

Ford (F 1.62%) had a rough month in January. The Blue Oval's U.S. sales were down 7% in January -- even while some rivals, such as Chrysler, managed to post gains.

What was the deal? Ford blamed the cold weather, saying that deep-freeze conditions kept buyers away from car dealers during the month. But is that all there was to it?

Will Ford make up lost ground over the next few months, or should Ford's investors -- who know how important the U.S. market is to Ford's profits -- be concerned?

Fool contributor John Rosevear takes a closer look at Ford's sales figures -- and those questions -- in this short video. A complete transcript follows.

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John Rosevear: Hey, Fools, it's John Rosevear. You've probably heard by now that Ford sales were pretty dismal looking in January. Ford said on Monday that its total U.S. sales were down 7% in January; retail sales were down 5%. That sounds rough, but Ford was clear that this was a weather-related blip. Ford said sales were up on the West Coast, but down in the central and Great Lakes and East Coast regions, and again they blamed the deep freeze and snow that we saw in those parts of the country in January. Ford also said that its fleet sales were down 14% versus a year ago, but they said that's because winter weather hampered their ability to make some deliveries. They do expect to make that ground up in February, so don't be surprised if Ford's fleet sales in February look really big.

There were some high points, though. Mustang sales were up 8% in January, I'm guessing that's because Mustangs don't sell all that well during winter in cold-weather parts of the country in any year, so the bump they saw in places like the West Coast was enough to give them a nice increase. Now, to be clear, those are 2014 Mustangs, the last of the old models. The all-new 2015 Mustangs won't be out until later this year.

Another high point, though it might not look like it, was Ford's pickup sales. Sales were essentially flat versus last year, down 305 units. Ford said that F-Series pickup sales were up 5% in the west, and up 3% in the southeast, but down in the Great Lakes and central regions because of the weather.

Ford said their spending on incentives for their pickups was the lowest among the three largest pickup producers in January, which is pretty impressive, given that this is an outgoing model. In fact, they were still selling off the last of their 2013 pickups in January. Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle said on Monday that 43% of the F-Series they sold in January were 2013s; the remainder were new 2014s. Those aren't the all-new aluminum ones yet; those will be 2015 models, coming out late this year.

And Lincoln sales are doing pretty well. Ford executives are always careful to say that Lincoln is a work in progress, and they're thinking in terms of years not months, but the brand's sales were up 42.5% in January. A lot of that was the MKZ sedan, which was just beginning to roll out a year ago, but the MKX SUV also had a nice jump in sales, up 35.5%.

So all in all, some underwhelming numbers for Ford in January, but some high points too, and they should make up the ground as the weather improves around the country. Thanks for watching, and Fool on.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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