F-Series, Ranger see strong third quarter sales; Ford recovering fast


The all-new 2021 Ranger Tremor off-road package enhances the look and feel of the midsize pickup as Ford steps up its fight against the Toyota Tacoma.


Despite a pandemic and economic uncertainty, the latest U.S. sales numbers released Friday show pickup truck buyers remain loyal to the Ford F-Series and the company is catering to an ongoing public demand for bigger vehicles overall.

Third quarter sales this year of America’s bestselling pickups exceeded the same period in 2019, which was viewed as a strong year for an industry not yet affected by the coronavirus. Ford continues to remain the dominant player in the truck wars, which drives huge revenues for the Detroit Three and primarily Ford.

“We feel very fortunate and cautiously optimistic,” Mark LaNeve, vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, told the Free Press.

Ford will probably go all-out to ensure the replacement for this 2020 F-150 goes into production on schedule. (Photo: Ford Motor Company)

Law enforcement is ordering more Police Interceptor SUVs, a version of the Ford Explorer, which saw a 200% surge in sales over third-quarter 2019, he said. Vehicles used for business, such as delivery vans and F-Series trucks used in construction, are in demand, LaNeve said.

Ford sold 59,060 Explorers, including the Police Interceptor, leading to an overall 73.9% gain from the same period one year ago. While law enforcement accounted for a significant portion of sales, individual retail sales from dealer lots grew 56%.

The latest sales numbers reflect recent statements by Ford CEO Jim Farley that commercial sales continue to be an area of potential growth for Ford.

Not only did Ford announce a rise in F-Series sales year over year in the third quarter, but the F-Series continued to buffer the company and led to a smaller drop in overall vehicle sales of 4.9% — half theindustry average 10% dip experienced by both General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

F-Series saw its overall sales climb 3.5% to 221,647 trucks, compared with 156,157 Ram trucks and 147,484 Chevy Silverados for the same period.

The 2020 Ford Ranger took the top spot in Cars.com’s 2020 American-Made Index. (Photo: Ford)

Ford pickup truck sales, when combining F-Series and Ranger, led to the best third quarter in 15 years, Ford noted.

The 249,997 in sales reflected a 4% increase over last year. Ranger alone accounted for 28,350 pickups and an 8.2% sales gain over the same period in 2019.

“F-Series sales were strong even in a non-pandemic era. Full-size pickup truck sales correlate directly with housing starts, and housing has been the strongest part of the economy,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader.

“Ford closed the third quarter strong, with healthy sales by individual retail customers, especially for its trucks and SUVs, and even improved sales with its fleet customers, a segment of the industry that remains depressed. It helped that Ford was far better off than many competitors by having healthy inventory levels.”

Ford also saw its overall full-size pickup truck market share grow slightly at 0.8% — not an insignificant feat considering its redesigned F-150 hasn’t been released yet. The F-150 is currently competing with a successful older design against newer products.

Overall, Ford sold 551,796 total vehicles versus 665,192 for GM and 507,351 for FCA.

A snapshot of the Ford numbers for July through September:

  • 551,796 vehicles sold or a 4.9% decline in total sales from 2019
  • 311,751 trucks sold or 0.6% up from 2019
  • 191,803 SUVs sold or 0.7% down from 2019
  • 48,424 cars sold or 37.5% down from 2019

No question, a strong housing market is tied to F-Series demand. The biggest growth in F-Series sales came in the southeast, up 18.1% over a year ago. The west and northeast were up 17.3% and 17.8% respectively, Ford said.

Speed and Luxury

Lincoln saw growth driven by its newest SUVs, the Aviator and Corsair. Aviator sold 6,118 or an increase of 222%. The company wasn’t fully ramped up in 2019, and now supplies can meet demand. Corsair, which is the bestselling Lincoln product, sold 7,044 or up 8% over the MKC it replaced.

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Meanwhile, the iconic Mustang sold 13,851, a drop in sales of 18%. Despite the legendary popularity of Mustang, the public continues to indicate a decreasing desire for cars.

Looking ahead

Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said, “Ford had stronger than expected sales performance, and a solid quarter for both F-series and Ranger pickups.”

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With the recent production start for the 2021 F-150, fourth quarter truck sales should also be good— “providing a boost to both revenues and the new executive team,” she said, while also urging caution for the final three months of the year. 

Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, is pictured here in 2018. (Photo: Joe Wilssens)

“COVID is in the driver’s seat in this economy, and cooler weather could bring even more cases and resulting economic fallout,” Dziczek said.

The ability to snap back from the COVID-19 shutdown with all the additional safety precautions in plants and supply chains coordination is impressive, said market analyst Jon Gabrielsen.

“But now all of that is in the rearview mirror. The challenge for Ford will be in the fourth quarter,” he said. “Job growth is stalling, large corporations are announcing large additional cuts, the various fiscal stimuli like the stimulus checks and supplemental unemployment compensation have all run out. … In the middle of that Ford will be in the middle of transitioning from the old to the new generation F-150 pickup, the product that carries the entire company.”

‘Wasted no time’

Garrett Nelson, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research, told investors Friday that he is keeping Ford stock a “sell” recommendation despite a solid third quarter sales performance year over year.

He noted that while Ford’s sales of 551,796 vehicles is a 4.9% decline from 580,251 in third quarter 2019, it’s a big improvement from the 33.3% decline in second quarter this year. Nelson also pointed out the less profitable passenger cars saw sales drop 37.5% due mostly to the killing off of models such as the Fiesta and Taurus.

“While Jim Farley wasted no time in reshuffling management after taking the CEO reins yesterday,” Nelson wrote, “we think Ford’s turnaround is likely to take time.”

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.

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