Can the F-150 Pickup Carry Ford? (Update)

Update: According to The Wall Street Journal, Ford expects a slowdown in F-150 production due to a delay in parts shipments.

Opinions about the decision by Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) CEO James Hackett to kill most of the company’s car lineup in the United States have ranged widely. Certainly, there is a good chance the results of the decision will determine whether Executive Chairman William Ford Jr. will keep Hackett in the job. More important than the car decision is whether Hackett can keep the sales of Ford’s flagship, the F-150 full-sized pickup, going strong. Sales of the F-Series make up 35% of the manufacturer’s unit sales in America.

F-Series sales, made up primarily of the F-150, were 214,191 in the first three months of the year. Ford’s total sales across all models for the period were 599,581. And F-Series sales are growing, up 4.3% year on year for the period. Ford’s total sales dropped 2.9%.

The F-Series pickups are the best-selling vehicles in the United States by far. In second place, the Chevy Silverado had sales of 135,545 in the first three months of the year, up 5.5%. The fourth best-selling vehicle in the country for the period was Fiat Chrysler Automobile N.V.’s (NYSE: FCAU) Ram pickup, the sales of which were 103,964, down 12.3%. The sales of the three show how much the American car market is driven by full-sized pickups.

Ford will have to rely even more heavily on the F-Series as it strips dealerships of the Fiesta, Fusion, Taurus and C-Max van. Naturally, as car sales for these models go to zero, the F-Series will become an even larger portion of Ford’s sales while Hackett tries to build electric and self-driving vehicles fit for public demand.

Hackett’s efforts to keep the F-Series in first place are primarily based on whether it can ward off its two primary competitors. That means not just the popularity of the brand. Chevy and Fiat Chrysler already employee discounts and special financing to steal F-150 sales. Each also endlessly updates their trucks with Special Editions, from a large selection of engines to “all-new” models. The latest of these is the 2019 “all-new” Ram 1500. The F-150 has to become “all new” fairly frequently as well.

Hackett will live or die by several decisions, but his ability to keep sales of the F-Series high may be the most important.