Yet another month has rolled by with the automotive industry posting year-over-year sales gains, and it's another month that Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) has trailed the industry. However, industry followers knew that Ford's drop in both sales and market share was looming. Here are three things to know about Ford's November sales results, and when we can expect sales to reverse the downtrend.
What's behind the decline?
The automaker was juggling inventory amid launching 16 new, or significantly refreshed, vehicles in the U.S. market. For comparison, that's more than the five launched last year and the seven planned next year combined.
Because some inventory has become strained due to the switch between new and older models, Ford has been taking its production and putting it into retail channels that are more profitable than daily rental fleet sales. In fact, year to date, Ford's daily rental business is down 16%, or about 40,000 units, according to the company. To put that in context, 40,000 units sold would be worth 1.8% of Ford's current sales this year -- a year when its year-to-date sales are down 1.2% compared to 2013.
How bad is the F-Series slipping?
Ford's F-Series full-size pickup is the company's bread and butter; it's the company's highest-volume seller, as well as the vehicle that hauls in a majority of the company's profits. It's troubling for investors, therefore, when sales of the F-Series declined 10% in November, while GM's Silverado, Sierra, and Chrysler's Ram all posted respective sales gains of 24%, 57%, and 21%.
Those sales figures point to Ford's competitors gaining ground in the very critical full-size truck market. The real question investors need to ask is whether this a demand or supply problem.
One figure that gives us a clue is Ford's Average Transaction Prices, or ATPs. The F-Series' ATP was up $2,100 versus a year ago, and that's at a time when the outgoing model is typically heavily discounted to make room for the new model. The fact that Ford is still showing strong pricing power on the F-Series suggests it's more of a supply problem, which is a good sign for the future sales of the F-Series, provided the 2015 F-Series delivers on quality and performance.
Lincoln's strong month... or was it?
Despite my belief that much brighter days are ahead for Ford's luxury brand Lincoln, November doesn't seem to be as strong a monthly performance as the headlines indicate. True, it was Lincoln's best November sales performance since 2007, but much of that was due to the all-new MKC vehicle that added nearly 11,000 incremental sales to the Lincoln brand this year.
In fact, aside from the MKC, the only other Lincoln vehicle to post a sales improvement in November, compared to last year, was the Navigator, with a strong 88% improvement, to 1,433 units sold. Perhaps the most troubling was Lincoln's flagship sedan, and one of the freshest under the Lincoln umbrella, as it posted a 26% decline in November compared to last year.
You'd have to go back 20 months to find a worse monthly sales performance from Lincoln's MKZ. However, even rewinding 20 months, you could argue that the lowly sales performance was only due to supply of the new MKZ model being months late to dealerships.
Ultimately, while November sales details aren't the most inspiring for Ford investors, these monthly sales declines should be a thing of the past by the second quarter of 2015, in my estimation. Until then, Ford's popular vehicles are still very popular, pricing remains strong, and consumer loyalty to the Ford brand remains high.
When December is wrapped up and recorded in the books, expect the Fusion and Escape to achieve something no other Ford vehicle besides the F-Series has done in a decade: top 300,000 sales in the U.S. in one year. Sales of the Mustang were up 62% in November, and the vehicle only spent eight days on dealer lots.
The year 2014 was always pegged as a building year to improve the company's future results. Things at Ford are better than they seem.
Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford, General Motors, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.