How Ford Lost The #2 Spot to Toyota

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We fired up the email this morning, per our usual, only to read lots of people asking why we hadn’t posted about Toyota overtaking Ford for the No. 2 automaker in the U.S in 2007. Frankly, we had thought that had already happened. Just kidding. Still, we didn’t digest all the numbers until now and there are some interesting things to note.

Toyota Division — Toyota-branded vehicles only; no Lexus or Scion — sold 2,291,648 total vehicles in 2007, the company’s best number ever.

Ford Division — Ford-branded vehicles only; no Lincoln or Mercury — sold 2,101,244 total vehicles, down 13.6 % from 2006’s figure of 2,433,086.

Conclusion 1:
Yes, Toyota is now the No. 1 nameplate. GM as a company is still really No. 1, but its Chevrolet nameplate is the No. 2 brand now, with 2,265,641 vehicles sold in 2007. That’s down 6.2% from 2,415,428 in 2006. GM as a company — including Cadillac, Hummer, and so on — is still tops with 3,833,611, versus Toyota Motor Company at 2,620,825 and Ford Motor Company at 2,572,599. The new Chrysler group — Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep — was down 3% to 2,076,650.

Conclusion 2: The Ford brand didn’t do that poorly if you take into account old models that were discontinued in 2007.

The Freestar minivan alone accounted for a loss of 47,735 vehicles in 2007 sales. It will be replaced by the Flex crossover in 2009.  The Ford Five Hundred accounted for a loss of roughly 17,040 vehicles, when you account for its discontinuation and the addition of the new Taurus, which replaced it a few months later. The Freestyle accounted for a loss of 16,492 during its few months out of commission before the Taurus X replaced it. The gas-guzzling Excursion’s minimal sales of 965 surely won’t be missed. The total of those discontinued vehicle sales is 82,232, which you could subtract from the 190,404 shortfall vs. Toyota, a number large enough to make an obvious dent. That’s not Ford’s only problem, though.

Conclusion 3:
Big sellers for Ford saw big declines and most are in need of replacing or updating.

The F Series alone was down 105,450 in 2007. That’s a huge number and would help bridge that gap with Toyota (which added an all-new Tundra last year, by the way). The Mustang, Econoline and Ranger also saw significant losses in 2007.

Conclusion 4:
Lincoln sales are gaining, but Mercury sales are dropping, and Ford needs to address Mercury’s failure soon. There are no new Mercury models in the pipeline … at all. And with most Lincoln and Mercury dealers already consolidating with Ford stores, there’s no need for two upmarket nameplates.

The Silver Lining: Ford will introduce an all-new F-150 in two weeks at the Detroit auto show. Even in a declining segment that should boost sales a bit. Also, the Mustang will get an update in 2009.

In 2008 the Flex crossover will go on sale, potentially offsetting the loss of the Freestar. The last all-new Ford crossover, the Edge, has done extremely well for the company. Its 130,125 in sales in 2007, its first year, easily offset the 41,412 drop in Explorer sales to 137,817 in 2007. Ford also says it cut down fleet sales — which don’t turn as much profit — by 18% in 2007.

What does all this mean? When you look at the pure numbers, not all is gloom and doom for Ford and other American brands, no matter what our email might tell us.

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David