Ford Motor's Management Host Sales/ Trading Statement Call (Transcript)

Ford Motor Company (F)

Sales/ Trading Statement Call

April 03, 2012 10:00 am ET

Executives

Erich Merkle -

Ken Czubay - Vice President of US Marketing Sales & Service

Ellen Hughes-Cromwick -

Analysts

John Murphy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Brian Arthur Johnson - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Adam Jonas - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Ford Monthly Sales Conference Call. My name is Erica, and I'll be your coordinator for today. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the presentation over to your host for today's call, Mr. Erich Merkle, U.S. Sales Analyst. Please proceed.

Erich Merkle

Thank you, Erica. Hello, and welcome, everybody. We are pleased to be joining the call today from New York. We're pleased, very pleased to be at the auto show, and at the show, we're making a lot of headlines as we are announcing Fusion with auto start-stop fuel saving technology. We're showing the new Explorer Sport for the first time. We're also debuting the all new Lincoln MKZ for 2013, and we're giving more details about our commitment to a unique and personalized experience for our Lincoln customers.

For the month, as we take a look at sales for the industry, by our estimates, total U.S. sales, including medium and heavy trucks, finished the month about 1,445,000 vehicles by our estimate. We believe the industry for the month of March increased approximately 14% versus March of last year, producing a SAAR of approximately 15 million vehicles. We saw a few interesting industry trends in March as well.

First, industry sales strength in January and February carried through into the month of March, very encouraging. Industry incentive spending was flat on a sequential basis and down slightly year-over-year, with a leveling off of fuel prices, albeit at high levels of just under about $4 a gallon for the national average. The small car segment held in March at approximately 24% of the industry. This is a number that's pretty consistent with what we saw in February really carried through into March. This compares to a level of approximately 20% of the industry for the full year in 2011.

Now turning to the company's performance. Ford Motor Company had its best month of March sales performance in 5 years, with a total of 223,418 vehicles for the month, a 5% increase versus March 2011. Retail sales were up 11% in March, while daily rental sales were up only 2%. For the first quarter, Ford's total company sales were 539,247 vehicles, a 9% increase over the same period in 2011. Ford Motor Company retail sales in the first quarter were up 13%, while our sales to daily rental fleets were down 3%. Our daily rental as a percent of total sales was just 13% for the quarter compared with 15% last year. Through February, our daily rental mix was lower than the industry, our domestic competitors and most of our full-line Japanese competitors as well.

Here to share a few more ways in which Ford products responded to these higher fuel prices is Ken Czubay. Ken?

Ken Czubay

Thanks, Erich, and good morning, everybody. And as Erich said, it's always exciting to be in New York City, where we have so much exciting news to share with everyone on the Ford side and on the Lincoln side.

Well, as you can imagine, fuel economy was the name of the game in March as it had been in the first quarter. As was the case in February, dealers across the country told us that higher fuel prices played a larger role in customers' purchase decisions no matter what kind of vehicle they were buying, from small cars through full-sized pickups. That meant good news for Ford Motor Company dealers, and they delivered strong March retail sales performance in cars, up 10% at retail; utilities,, up 11% at retail; and trucks up 12% at retail. Doesn't get more balanced than that, which has -- and we, of course, fuel economy leaders in each of those super segments. We are participating well across multiple segments as our fuel-efficient vehicles are not segment-specific, but rather extend from small cars all the way through to full-sized pickups.

So let's take a closer look at cars. Fusion had its best sales month ever, ever, with 28,562 vehicles sold. This really speaks well to our continued strong performance in the midsized passenger car segment and paves the way for our next step with the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion coming this fall. Focus sales were up 65% versus last March, selling 28,293 vehicles. Focus had its best March sales results ever. Through the first quarter of this year, Focus sales are up 70% -- 78% nationwide. Importantly, a good share of those sales increases came in California, an important market whose small car vehicle registrations represent more than 30% of total registrations in the state. I was just in the L.A. region yesterday, gas was over $4.50 a gallon and our dealers are doing a great job in the small car segments. Focus posted 135% retail sales increase for the first quarter, including 194% retail sales increase in California during the month of March versus last year.

Now let's talk about utilities. Retail sales of Ford utilities were up 11% in March, as I mentioned. Sales of the Edge increased 13% to 14,058 vehicles. This represents the best-ever March performance for the Edge. It's also worth noting 19% of retail Edge utility vehicles sold were equipped with our new 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine, and that provides customers with 30 miles per gallon. Explorer also performed very well last month, delivering its best March performance since 2001, over a decade. EcoBoost was 12% of the retail mix on Explorer.

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