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US:Ford seeks to stabilize U.S. retail share in 2007

Ford seeks to stabilize U.S. retail share in 2007


DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. aims to stabilize its share of the U.S. retail auto market at its current level of about 11 percent over the course of 2007, a senior executive said.

"Our intent is to make sure that we stabilize in that range," said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.'s head of the Americas. "Clearly it is going to depend on the month and depend on when our products are launched, but we certainly intend for it to stabilize in that range."

Ford has said it is aiming to hold its overall share of the U.S. light vehicle market at between 14 percent to 15 percent, including fleet sales, as it restructures by shutting 16 plants and cutting more than 50,000 jobs.

Ford's sales have dropped almost 8 percent this year, while a nearly 13 percent increase by Toyota Motor Corp. over the same period has put the Japanese automaker on track to overtake Ford as the No. 2 player in the U.S. market in the view of many analysts.

But Fields said Ford, like larger rival General Motors, was trying to pull away from sales of vehicles to car rental companies that typically carry steep discounts in favor of more profitable showroom sales.

"Very clearly we're going to place less emphasis on fleet sales and more on retail sales," he said Tuesday, Dec. 12.

Ford has ended production of its Taurus sedan, a model that was sold almost exclusively to fleet buyers in its final months.

Fields said the automaker's coming product launches would show its commitment to a strategy of protecting its No. 1 position in pickups while moving into areas of expected faster growth, including smaller cars and car-based crossovers.

Ford is launching its 2008 model Super Duty F-series pickup early next year as well as a new version of its Escape small SUV and a redesigned Ford Focus, the smallest car in its vehicle line-up.

Ford also started shipping the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossover vehicles to its dealers last week.

Ford has been counting on the new vehicles to replace lost sales of SUVs, and Fields and other executives have said the automaker would channel future investment toward more fuel-efficient crossovers such as the Edge.

Ford's chief sales analyst, George Pipas, said on Tuesday, Dec. 12, that sales of crossover vehicles -- which are built on a car rather than a truck platform -- were on track to reach 2.4 million units in 2006.

The expected 9 percent growth in sales of crossovers will mean that sales in the category will top SUV sales for the first time in the U.S. market this year, Pipas said.

Sales of SUVs were expected to drop for the second consecutive year by a double-digit percentage to hit 2.1 million units this year, he said.

Meanwhile, Pipas said Ford would target the growing market for small cars with a redesigned Focus. Sales of small cars are on track to reach 2.7 million units in 2006, he said.

Ford has only a 7-percent share in that segment of the U.S. market, which is increasingly important as a way to reach first-time car buyers, he said.

"We haven't emphasized the products in the past like we should have," he said.

Separately, Fields said Ford would not make an announcement this year on whether it will build a new low-cost production plant in North America, something the company had earlier indicated was possible.

"We're still working on the business case," he said. "I've always said it's in consideration. We've never said it's a given."

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.....
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