Ford Has Finally Turned Around Its Flagging Pickup

With two truck factories humming, Ford posts massive July sales

Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg

Ford appears to have finally found the right gear with its F-150 pickup, otherwise known as the moneymaker.

After sales of the vehicle slipped every month from February through June, drivers snapped up 66,300 in July—11,100 more than in June and a 4.8 percent increase over July of last year. 

The company had struggled to roll out a thoroughly redesigned truck that incorporated far more aluminum than ever before in a bid to get better mileage. In the 12 months ended in June, Ford's share of the pickup market declined from 33 percent to 28 percent.

The ambitious overhaul presented a number of problems. Namely, Ford had to drastically retool its assembly line and hustle to produce the new truck as quickly as the old one, both of which took longer than planned, according to Ford.

But amid the production lag was an elephant in the factory: What if customers just weren’t all that into the thing? Drivers skeptical about all the aluminum appeared to be buying other brands or withholding their purchases until they saw how the new rig performed. Some dealers were offering discounts up to $10,000 to lure reluctant drivers.

Meanwhile, those keen to buy the new pickup were left waiting for it, leaving Ford in the same situation Apple grapples with in the weeks leading up to a new iPhone reveal.

In July, however, it all seemed to come together ….

 

The company finally found some momentum in both production and demand. “As our inventories continue to improve, we are seeing sales follow,” Ford Vice President Mark LaNeve said on a conference call this morning. He added that Ford’s pickup workers are getting “very good at squeezing additional production now when we need it.”

It’s difficult to overstate how critical this truck is to Ford and the size of the shadow it casts on the auto business at large. It has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for decades, and it is the closest thing this fickle industry has to a sure thing.

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