US:Ford counts on cars, not trucks, to boost share
Ford counts on cars, not trucks, to boost share
CEO hopes brand reduces reliance on sales of its trucks
BY BILL KOENIG
Ford Motor Co., the second-biggest U.S. automaker, plans to boost the market share of its flagship Ford brand by increasing passenger-car sales, Ford Division President Steve Lyons said.
"It's got to happen with the Five Hundred and Mustang," Lyons told reporters Sunday following a meeting with Ford dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Association in New Orleans.
Ford introduced the new Five Hundred sedan and a redesigned Mustang sports car in the second half of 2004. Lyons said Ford would try to sell about the same number of F-Series pickups in 2005 as it did last year, when it sold a record 939,511.
The Ford brand accounts for 83 percent of the automaker's U.S. sales. The brand's sales of cars and light trucks fell 4.2 percent in 2004 compared with an industrywide increase of 1.4 percent, according to Autodata Corp.
The brand got 28 percent of its sales from F-Series pickup trucks and had 16.4 percent of the U.S. market, down from 17.3 percent in 2004, according to Autodata. Ford's total U.S. share declined to 19.6 percent from 20.8 percent, Autodata said.
Lyons didn't project a specific market-share increase for the Ford brand.
"I'll declare victory" if the brand's market share rises 0.1 percentage point, he said.
Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford, 47, is counting on new car models to reduce the company's reliance on trucks.
The $23,000 Five Hundred is a partial replacement for the company's Taurus sedan, which was the No. 1 selling car in the U.S. from 1992 to 1996. The company is introducing the Fusion sedan this year, which will be smaller than the Five Hundred, as another Taurus replacement.
The Taurus was eclipsed by Toyota Motor Corp.'s Camry and Honda Motor Co.'s Accord. Ford sold 248,148 Taurus cars in 2004, down 39 percent from its peak of 409,751 in 1992. Ford continues to build the Taurus mostly for sale to rental-car companies. Ford is introducing another sedan in the second half of 2005 that will also be a partial Taurus replacement.
Lyons also said Ford may discontinue the Thunderbird this year.
"I'll let the market decide," he said. The current two-seat version of the Thunderbird debuted in 2001 and Ford expected to sell 25,000 annually. The company sold 11,998 Thunderbirds in 2004, down 34 percent.
Ford also is looking to boost sales to younger customers, Lyons said.
The automaker's Ford Motor Credit Co. unit, which generated 83 percent of the company's net income in 2004, is changing the way it evaluates the creditworthiness of younger buyers, Lyons said. The credit unit is altering debt-to-income ratios in such evaluations and will consider increases in future income, he said.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....