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Ford Sales Climb Despite Market Wariness

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Ford Sales Climb Despite Market Wariness

By Eric Mayne and Byron Pope

WardsAuto.com, Jun 2, 2010 3:16 PM

Ford Motor Co. reports a 19% hike in retail sales in May, compared with year-ago, despite a tight credit market and lingering consumer wariness of the waning recession.

Fleet deliveries rose 32%, but the auto maker’s top U.S. sales analyst is quick to say commercial customers accounted for the lion’s share. And most of those sales were light trucks – Ford F-Series pickups, Econoline fullsize vans and Transit Connect minivans.

Meanwhile, anticipation surrounding this year’s launch of an all-electric version of the Transit

Connect heightened today as Ford announces it will provide free in-home charging stations to the first 5,000 customers who order the vehicle.

Orders are being taken now. Ford offers no further details other than confirming the first unit will be delivered to AT&T.

Including Volvo-brand vehicles, the auto maker recorded 195,132 total deliveries in May, for a 22.2% surge compared with like-2009, according to Ward’s data.

Ford’s deal to sell Volvo to China-based Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is expected to close in the third quarter.

While there are hints consumer confidence is trending slightly upwards, it is hardly robust, says Ford’s senior economist. However, credit conditions did more to cap retail sales than employment-rate worries.

“Consumer credit remains constrained,” Emily Kolinski-Morris tells reporters and analysts in a teleconference.

Ford also announces plans to increase second-quarter production 42% over like-2009 in keeping with a plan to maintain its inventory in the range of 400,000 vehicles. The auto maker finished May with 371,000 vehicles on hand, 120,000 cars and 251,000 trucks, Ford sales analyst George Pipas says.

Ford’s production hike is not tied to demand for one specific vehicle, Pipas adds. It is the result of the auto maker’s “across-the-board sales performance.”

And the pending launch of the Ford Fiesta suggests there’s more where that came from. Online inquiries about the all-new B-car have tripled in recent weeks, making it the third-most popular nameplate search on Ford websites behind the Ford Mustang and F-150, Pipas says.

The auto maker’s offer of free EV charging stations, dubbed the “Ford Blue Oval ChargePoint Program,” is for residents of nine markets: Austin, TX; Detroit; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando, FL; Sacramento, CA; the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area, Redmond, WA; and Washington.

The first-come, first-served program is part of Coulomb Technologies Inc.’s $37 million charging station infrastructure project, made possible by a $15 million grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Installations will begin immediately, Ford says.



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