NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Though Ford Motor (F - Get Report) has increased the discount on certain F Series full-size pickups, the automaker is playing down talk that demand for its new aluminum body vehicle may be weakening.
Certain F Series versions qualify for as much as $10,000 off of the retail price, when all discounts are taken into account, including a markdown by some retail dealers and an incentive to use Ford Motor Credit for financing. The top discount applies only to trucks with special chrome trim, a more sophisticated engine and other upgrades.
But Ford says the average discount per truck, $3,350, is $800 below the average including all competitors and less than the discount a year ago. As for the 2.4% decline in F Series sales through June of this year, it's driven by a tight inventory of trucks: Ford had to shut down capacity to switch to aluminum from steel.
John Krafcik, president of TrueCar (TRUE - Get Report), an online vehicle buying platform, tweeted on Thursday: "F Series is crushing it with all-time record pickup truck ATP (average transaction price) of $46,573" - an 8.1% increase over last year's average.
"These isolated high incentives are likely due to competitive dealer marketing, but there may be a small subset of consumers who may need more convincing on the new aluminum platform," said Akshay Anand, an analyst for Kbb.com. "With all that said, Ford's biggest issue for the new truck is still supply."
Investors are closely monitoring the sales and pricing performance of Ford's new truck, which is the automaker's single most profitable vehicle and the anchor of its finances. Last month Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report) raised its rating on Ford shares to buy from neutral. The investment bank said it expected earnings momentum to "accelerate" in 2016 driven by production of the new truck.
Of the twenty equity analysts issuing recommendations on Ford stock, eight call it a buy or strong buy, eleven rate it a hold, and one expects it to underperform, according to Yahoo Finance.
In the past year, Ford shares have lost 16% in value, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 7 percent.
To some, pickup trucks connote images of farms, ranches, plumbing contractors and other service-related activity. But pickups in many parts of the country are ordered as the ultimate luxury vehicle, with leather upholstery, premium sound systems and high-tech safety gear.
Early demand for Ford's truck was strong, as those eager to experience the new aluminum body, F Series loyalists and other early adopters crowded dealers showrooms. As the first wave of buyers subsides, Ford will be able to gauge whether its gamble with aluminum and cost of shutting down plants to switch tools and processes is paying off in stronger revenue and profit.
One premise of switching to aluminum was improved fuel efficiency due to the lighter weight of the metal, compared with steel. Lately, however, gasoline prices have moderated, making the efficiency less important to buyers.
"Now that the F Series is in the market, we continue to be in a strong position. Real world fuel economy for our V-8 and Ford's turbo V-6s is very close," said Tom Wilkinson, a spokesman for General Motors (GM - Get Report) . GM manufacturers Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, two full-size pickups that compete directly with F Series.