Thursday, February 1, 2007

More Bad News

Ford Motor Co. sold 8,876 Explorer sport utility vehicles in January, the vehicle’s worst performance since 1990 when it was launched and production was still ramping up. The figure was a 26 percent drop from January of last year. January is typically a slow sales month for cars and trucks, following year-end sales in December. Ford makes the Explorer at the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road. Ford sales analyst George Pipas said most of the Explorer’s decline came from the automaker’s decision to slash less-profitable sales to rental car fleets. Retail sales were off 13 percent. "For the most part, it’s continuing the trend we saw last year," Pipas said of the SUV.

Ford sold 44,919 F-Series pickups. F-Series Super Duty models built at the Kentucky Truck Plant on Chamberlain Lane typically make up about 40 percent of F-Series sales. Overall, Ford sales were down 19 percent because of the poor truck and SUV sales and because the automaker ended production last year of its money-losing Taurus sedan. Almost all Taurus models built in the 2005 and 2006 were sold to car rental companies. "All of us are focused on restructuring our business to be profitable at lower volumes," Ford Americas President Mark Fields said in press release.

The Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands fell to fourth place in automotive sales for the month, behind General Motors, Toyota and DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group. January was a poor month for many of Ford’s competitors. General Motors logged a 16 percent sales decline, something it also attributed to reducing of rental car sales. Sales of its TrailBlazer SUV, a vehicle that competes with the Explorer, dropped 30 percent to 9,368.

Sales of the Bowling Green, Ky.,-built Corvette sports car fell 13 percent to 2,234. The Silverado pickup saw flat sales, although GM said it increased retail sales and dropped fleet shipments. At Chrysler, sales were up slightly in January thanks to booming sales of the Jeep Wrangler and increases in minivans.

Toyota Motor Co. had the strongest January in its history with a nearly 15 percent increase is sales of Georgetown, Ky.,-made Camry sedans. The automaker’s Princeton, Ind., plant did not fare as well with double-digit declines in the Tundra pickup, Sienna minivan and Sequoia SUV. Honda Motor Co. also had a record January, mainly on the strengths of a redesigned CR-V SUV and stronger Accord sedan sales.

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