Ford Predicts U.S. Auto Sales to Rise After May-June Trough

Ford Predicts U.S. Auto Sales to Rise After May-June Trough
2011 Ford Motor Co. Flex sport utility vehicles (SUV) sit on display at the Capital Ford dealership in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photographer: Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg

Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, said U.S. industrywide auto sales will rise in the second half on greater availability of models and increased demand after reaching a low point in May and June.

June’s seasonally adjusted annual rate will match or be “slightly better,” than May’s 11.8 million rate, George Pipas, Ford’s sales analyst, told reporters today in Dearborn, Michigan, where the company is based. Ford’s June sales rose from a year earlier, he said, without providing specific figures.

Industrywide sales have been hurt by “the lack of availability of some popular products in May, June and probably July” because of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Pipas said. “When they come back on line, we’ll do as well as we did in the first four months of the year, plus we’ll have pent-up demand from people who have been deferring purchases.”

Ford’s U.S. sales fell 2.6 percent in May, as rising gasoline prices and smaller discounts pushed industrywide sales lower by 3.7 percent. Ford’s U.S. market share slid to 16.6 percent this year through May from 16.9 percent a year earlier, according to researcher Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

The “underlying demand” is for a 13 million sales rate, Pipas said. “The economy is expanding, income is expanding, the population is growing and cars are getting older.”

Ford’s Forecast

Next year, U.S. auto sales should climb higher than Ford’s 2011 forecast, which is for 13 million to 13.5 million cars and trucks, Pipas said. That forecast includes 200,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Light-vehicle sales climbed to 11.6 million in 2010 from a 27-year low of 10.4 million in 2009. Deliveries still were 31 percent fewer than the 16.8 million annual average from 2000 to 2007, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata.

The automaker is not concerned the U.S. economy will fall back into a recession, Pipas said.

“The likelihood of a double dip is not even on our radar screen,” Pipas said. “There’s too much uncertainty to say with clarity when sales in the U.S. will return to the levels we saw earlier” in the century.

Ford rose 9 cents to $13.42 at 4 p.m. in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares have fallen 20 percent this year.

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