Ford's (NYSE:F) U.S. sales likely rose in August, say analysts -- despite a probable dip in the overall market for new cars and trucks.
That's good news for Blue Oval shareholders. Ford's U.S. sales have lagged the overall market so far in 2015, in part because of tight supplies of the company's best seller, the F-150 pickup. Through July, sales of the F-Series were down 1.3%.
It looks like more and more of the new F-150s are reaching Ford dealers. If these predictions are accurate, it also looks likely that the new pickup is still selling very well, without big incentives.
Ford's sales likely increased, despite a later Labor Day
Analysts are expecting a small year-over-year decline in U.S. auto sales when August results are reported on Tuesday, with TrueCar and Edmunds both predicting drops of just under 3%.
Despite the expectation of an industrywide decline in sales, most analysts expect a small year-over-year increase for Ford, in the neighborhood of 1% to 2%.
Both sets of experts and their counterparts elsewhere agree that the U.S. market isn't softening. Rather, the drop is likely because the run-up to Labor Day weekend is a bit later than usual this year, and that's a popular time to go car shopping. In other words, those sales are likely to be made up next month.
But Ford doesn't appear to be boosting its incentives in order to drive a sales jump. Instead, it looks likely that increased supplies of the new F-150 -- and continued strong sales of Ford's popular SUVs -- are set to generate good results when August's sales numbers are released on Tuesday.
Ford's incentives are probably down now, but truck sales are likely rising
After months of weak results due to short supplies, Ford's pickup sales started to rise in July. That trend looks likely to have continued in August. Some analysts have speculated that Ford is boosting incentives to stoke truck sales. But TrueCar's analysts say otherwise. They expect Ford's incentive spending (on a per-vehicle basis) to drop 17% from what it spent in August of last year, to an average of $2,983 -- and to be down slightly from last month's modest numbers.
If that prediction pans out, it'll be good news for Ford shareholders. A drop in incentive spending almost always translates to a boost in profit margins. Ford posted very strong profit margins in North America in the second quarter, and that strength is expected to continue as its truck sales ramp up.
Incentives on the new F-150 will rise, and that's OK
Ford's spending on truck incentives is likely to rise a bit from what we've seen in recent months as its inventories rise. That's typical in the wake of a new-product launch, and it's not a cause for concern.
Average transaction prices on Ford's F-Series line have hovered around $44,000 recently. That's also likely to decline a bit in coming months. With supplies limited, Ford prioritized retail sales of trucks in higher trim levels. As more lower-trim models come into dealer inventories, and as Ford delivers more of the new F-150s to commercial-fleet customers, it's likely that average transaction prices will fall somewhat. That's not unexpected, and it's not bad.
But if more of Ford's new are trucks reaching customers, the net result will be a boost in earnings heading into the third quarter. Stay tuned.