Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) said that U.S. sales of its F-Series pickups fell 0.9% in November, to 72,102 trucks sold.
On the one hand, declines in F-Series sales are always worrisome for Ford shareholders, given that the big pickups deliver an outsize portion of the automaker's profit. On the other, as Ford officials were quick to point out, 72,102 trucks is still a lot of trucks, and November was the ninth month in a row in which Ford sold over 70,000 F-Series.
Long story short, it wasn't necessarily a bad result in context. But here's the thing: While the F-Series' U.S. sales fell slightly in November, U.S. sales of full-size pickups overall rose 8.4% last month.
Who is racking up all of those extra pickup sales, if not Ford?
Ford's F-Series is still America's best-seller, but its market share slipped a bit in November. Image source: Ford Motor Company.
Two big rivals are gaining ground
The short answer is that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE: FCAU) is having a banner year on a lot of fronts, one of which is full-size pickups. Sales of FCA's Ram pickups rose a whopping 42% last month, as the company continued to sell down stocks of its outgoing 2018 trucks while enjoying strong demand for the all-new 2019 Ram 1500.
Critics have had high praise for FCA's all-new 2019 Ram 1500. Image source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
But there's a little more to the story: General Motors (NYSE: GM) also appears to have had a good month. While GM no longer reports monthly U.S. sales figures, Automotive News estimates that sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra -- both of which are also all-new for 2019 -- rose a combined 8.2% in November.
|Metric||November 2018 Sales||Change vs. November 2017||YTD 2018 Sales||Change vs. YTD 2017|
|General Motors total||69,874||8.2%||710,418||0.1%|
Data sources: Ford, FCA, Toyota, Nissan, and Automotive News. YTD = year-to-date.
What's the takeaway here?
Ford is still the market leader, but it lost a bit of ground in November. The overall U.S. market for full-size pickups is still growing, but Ford isn't capturing much of the growth right now.
Is that a problem? Not necessarily. Consider: Ford's F-150 was all-new for the 2015 model year. Ford has kept it up to date, and it's still a competitive product, but both FCA and GM have just rolled out all-new 2019-model-year full-size pickups. Generally speaking, in autos, the freshest products draw the most interest from customers and command the highest prices. That seems to be holding true even when the competition is the vaunted Ford F-150.
GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra are all-new for 2019. Image source: General Motors.
What's more, right now, FCA and GM are each selling a mix of brand-new trucks and aggressively discounted outgoing models. The new trucks bring curious customers to the dealers, and the discounted 2018 trucks offer value to those who don't want to pay full price for the new models. Meanwhile, Ford -- to its credit -- isn't playing the deep-discount game. The F-Series' average transaction price in November was a stout $47,000, Ford said -- about $1,800 higher than the industry average.
So here's the takeaway: While rivals' new models (and deeply discounted old models) are probably stealing some sales, Ford is still selling a lot of trucks at very strong prices. And chances are, Ford will steal the market momentum back when the next all-new F-150 arrives in 2020.
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