Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), along with the rest of the automotive industry, posted another strong month of sales gains in October. Ford rode multiple factors to its 13% gain to nearly 214,000 units sold. Those factors include an October that contained five Saturdays, as well as one extra selling day compared to last year's October. Those factors, in combination with continuing red-hot SUV and truck sales, fueled a very strong month heading into a very competitive holiday selling season.
With that said, here are three takeaways for Ford investors regarding October's sales results.
Cars are back!
One of the first things that jumped out at me while glancing over Ford's sales data was the fact that of the automaker's car, utility, and truck segments, the car segment actually posted the largest year-over-year gain in October. Ford car sales were up nearly 17% in October compared to last year, ahead of its utility and truck segment gains of 12.4% and 13.8%, respectively, which was surprising because demand for cars in general has been weaker in 2015 while sales of SUVs and trucks remain red-hot.
Here's a breakdown of increases and total volume for the segment; you can clearly see the drivers of the segment gains.
While the Mustang and Focus powered year-over-year car segment gains, the Fusion led in terms of total volume, with its best-ever October: nearly 24,000 units sold. Despite a strong October, Ford's passenger cars have still taken a backseat to red-hot sales of SUVs and full-size trucks in 2015, and there's a big story in Ford's October sales data for its larger vehicles, too.
Cars are back, but SUV prices surge
Cars may have posted higher increases in sales than Ford's SUVs last month, but it was still a very strong month for Ford's larger vehicles, which haul the big profits for Detroit's second-largest automaker. Consider that Ford SUV sales were up 12% for the best October since 2004, led by strong sales gains from the Explorer and Edge, which respectively jumped 30% and 39% higher last month compared to the prior year.
Those gains are impressive, but the real story is what those sales gains did to Ford's pricing. Consider that Ford's average transaction price rose $1,800 per vehicle compared to last year's October -- that was the largest gain among any major automaker in the U.S. market. What's more, the strong SUV and full-size truck sales powered Ford's overall vehicle transaction price to $34,600 per vehicle last month, which was an all-time record.
Those high average transaction prices will help propel Ford to strong fourth-quarter results when it reports again in January.
If you're reading about Ford's sales, you know how important sales of the F-Series full-size truck are to the automaker. The good news is that the full-size truck is continuing to trend higher heading into a historically strong November and December selling period.
What investors might find interesting, however, is that the EcoBoost option continues to sell extremely well. In fact, 65% of F-150 retail sales last month included the EcoBoost engine, which was a 95% increase compared to last October. Part of that gain is likely due to the new 2.7-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6 offered with the 2015 F-150, but Ford doesn't break out those statistics.
One thing for investors to keep an eye on when November sales are reported next month is the inventory level of Ford's F-Series trucks and if management is comfortable with the amount. That's because if demand exists to sell more than 75,000 F-Series trucks in December -- a level it nearly reached during the past two Decembers -- sales could be restrained slightly if there isn't enough dealership inventory to match consumer demand. While the holiday season is essentially guaranteed to be a profitable success for Ford and the F-Series, nobody wants profits left on the table because there wasn't enough trucks to go around.
Ultimately, this was a very strong October for the folks at the Blue Oval, and as SUVs and full-size trucks look poised to continue selling at a crazy-fast pace, it's setting Ford up for a very strong fourth quarter that should see operating margins around 11% and very high profits in its critical North America region.
Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. 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.