Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) investors are taking a breath of fresh air today. After a 2014 that was filled with month after month of underwhelming sales totals for the folks at the Blue Oval, 2015 is starting off on a much better foot. While it's true that January is historically a weaker month in terms of total new-vehicle sales volume, Ford still had a great month. Let's dig in.
Best of the best
Starting from the top, Ford's overall sales for January increased 15% compared to last year, for a total of 178,351 vehicles sold -- its best January performance since 2004. It's always good when a company can say that a particular vehicle had its "best ever" month, and Ford was able to say that many times for January's results.
Ford's F-Series, which is America's best-selling truck for the 38th year now, posted its best January since 2004, with a 17% increase in sales to more than 54,000 units sold. The Escape also delivered its best January sales performance in its entire history, while the Explorer posted its best January since 2005. Keeping the trend going, the Mustang had its best January since 2007, with sales driving 124% higher compared to last year. Even Lincoln, Ford's struggling luxury brand, had its best January in half a decade.
Ultimately, January was a solid month. Erich Merkle, Ford U.S. sales analyst, explained: "Customer demand is strong for our newest vehicles, driving retail sales gains across our lineup in January. Momentum is especially strong for our F-Series pickup, with the all-new F-150 the hottest product on our dealer lots in January."
Drivers can't get enough!
In fact, the all-new F-150 is only sitting on dealership lots for an average of 12 days, which means the vehicle is selling very quickly. Typically, the first buyers to get their hands on new models are those who spend more money on vehicles, and that means high-end trims are moving off lots even faster. The F-150 Platinum and King Ranch are averaging only nine and 10 days, respectively, before consumers take them home.
It should be noted that while Ford continues to change over its Kansas City plant, as the assembly lines need significant alterations to produce the F-150's transition to aluminum body panels, sales won't be at full strength until we get closer to midyear. It'll be important for investors to keep an eye on F-150 inventory until production reaches full capacity, as the truck generates a significant portion of Ford's profits.
While Ford's January was a solid month, with deliveries increasing 15% as previously mentioned, its retail sales were also strong, with a 13% gain. Ford is seeing a clear trend with retail sales as well, with passenger car sales moving 6% higher while utilities and trucks moved 10% and 23% higher, respectively. Consumers are continuing to buy larger SUVs and utilities at a high rate, which is a trend likely to continue as gas remains cheaper.
Investors can also expect other automakers to post double-digit gains, as last year's January was weak because of harsh winter weather that kept consumers at bay. However, looking at early reports, it looks likely that new-vehicle sales could check in above forecasts for 16.5 million vehicles at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. So far, so good, in terms of 2015 looking to be another strong year for automakers.