INTERNATIONAL - Ford Motor Co. has stopped running national ads for the Fusion and Focus sedans it’s killing and put more marketing muscle behind the Mustang, a decision that paid off with a 35 percent sales jump for the pony car last month.
“Those are the kind of things you’re able to do when you narrow the focus of your lineup,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in an interview. “It allows you to not only focus your product resources, but also to focus manpower, time, attention and marketing on your core lineup. And we think we’re getting a benefit from that.”
Ford will offer more variants of the Mustang, banking off the special Bullitt edition put out this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Steve McQueen movie that featured a legendary chase scene. That model is in high demand, with customers willing to get on waiting lists, LaNeve said. The 480-horsepower fastback with a top speed of 163 mph starts at $47,495.
“How many more Bullitt ideas are out there?” LaNeve said. “Those kind of niche, buzz vehicles do a lot for the Ford brand and the Mustang brand.”
The Mustang is poised to be the lone passenger car to survive Ford culling its North American lineup lineup to focus on more lucrative trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles. While Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett has vowed a return to a 10 percent profit margin in the company’s most important region, he has yet say when Ford will get there.
Ford surprised analysts with a 4.1 percent August sales increase, driven by gains with the Mustang, F-Series trucks and sport utility vehicles, including a doubling of deliveries of the recently redesigned Lincoln Navigator. The strong results followed a sluggish July in which its older SUVs sagged and sent its total light-vehicle deliveries down 3.3 percent.
“The last 20 days of July, for whatever reason, were soft,” LaNeve said. “If August had been soft, I would have really been nervous. But August seemed to bounce back, which is what we’ve seen over the last couple years: We have a clunker month, and then the industry bounces back.”
That resilience can be attributed to consumer confidence and a robust job market, he said.
“When people have a job and they’re optimistic about keeping that job, and they see wages going up, they buy vehicles,” LaNeve said. “Even when there’s been a lot of noise in the marketplace in terms of political activity, or economic news or tariffs, the consumer has remained enthusiastic.”
Ford’s August sales also got a boost from a 15 percent increase in deliveries to fleet buyers, driven by commercial vehicles such as the Super Duty pickup and Transit van. LaNeve said the automaker is benefiting from an Amazon effect: The rise of online shopping has meant more consumers are receiving their goods from a delivery vehicle pulling up to their front door.
“All these emerging Internet businesses that rely on delivery are playing right into our strong suit with Transit,” LaNeve said. “No question, it is generating demand in the commercial markets for delivery vehicles.”