Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), already pressured from falling sales in China, slow progress in cutting costs and a faltering effort to get into the electric and autonomous car businesses, will be hit by a sharp drop in U.S. sales in October. Ford likely would say it planned it that way.
According to Cox Automotive, Ford’s domestic sales will drop 12% in October, compared to the same month last year, to 185,000 units. That will put it even with the top Japanese car company, Toyota Corp. (NYSE: TM), which is also expected to sell 185,000 vehicles, down 3.5% from October of last year. U.S. market leader General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) is expected to have sales of 235,000, down 4.2%. Sales of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) cars are expected to rise 16.2% to 180,000, which makes it another threat to Ford in U.S. market share.
Ford’s sales drop is expected to be much larger than the industry’s. Cox estimates total U.S. vehicle sales will decline 2.6% to 1,360,000. Cox executives reported that overall sales in November and for the year are better than they had expected. Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, said:
The market continues to outperform our earlier forecast with expected headwinds being offset by other market factors. Looking ahead, affordability concerns – attributable to increasing interest rates, weakness in home construction and volatility in the stock market are growing headwinds to watch. However, sales in 2018 will be above 17 million, which is a very strong market indeed. How long this pace continues is the key question.
Because Ford is phasing out its car brands in the United States in favor of more popular sport utility vehicles, crossovers and pickups, management may claim that a decline in sales related to cars is consistent with the reasons it plans to exit this end of the market. What is clear, however, is that Ford’s share of the U.S. market will continue to fall, which means sales of its non-car vehicles are not making up for drops in its sedans and coupes. It is hard to explain why that is good news.