Lots of folks are talking about the Ford F-150. The truck has been America's best-selling vehicle for the past several decades, and the F-Series in general has topped U.S. charts since the 1940s. But is the king about to be kicked off the mountain?
Doomsayers point to two weak spots in the F-150's heretofore unassailable armor:
1. Declining sales: Last month, Ford sold 55,171 F-150s, which was 8.9 percent fewer than in June 2014. At the halfway point of 2015, Ford had sold just above 357,000 of them, a more modest year-over-year decline of 2.4 percent. Meanwhile, sales of the F-150's biggest competitor, the Chevrolet Silverado are up 14.6 percent for the year.
2. Deep discounts: As Detroit News notes, F-150 customers can now receive up to $10,000 in discounts on 2015 models, $7050 of which comes from Ford directly.
Are the critics onto something? Should F-150 fans be worried? Is Ford getting desperate?
To be sure, the F-150's sales numbers are off, but that's largely due to problems with production. Moving the F-150 from a steel body to one made of aluminum has caused a few hiccups on the assembly line, which has made it hard for Ford to keep up with demand for its best-seller. While many Ford loyalists have patiently waited out the delays, some fence-straddlers have opted to purchase other models from other automakers.
Even so, the F-150 still holds a lead of about 70,000 sales over the Silverado, and production is slowly stabilizing. We'd be a little surprised if sales don't pick up (no pun intended) over the rest of the year. Ford expects production to hit normal levels in the fall.
As for the discounts, those might appear troubling on the surface, too, but as Ford points out, the $10,000 figure making headlines these days is a little deceiving. Some of the incentives that contribute to that sum have little or nothing to do with the F-150 and are linked to using Ford Credit or other reasons. The company says that incentives for 2015 F-Series models are around $3,100 per truck, which is less than Ford offered for the steel-bodied 2014 model.
And let's not forget, the 2016 F-150 is barreling toward dealers even as we speak. Incentives are a way of helping to clear out 2015 inventory before new models arrive.
To many of us, the bigger question boils down to what effect the current delays will have on future F-150 sales. Will those who've grown impatient with Ford and chosen to buy Silverados or Rams today stick with those same brands down the road? Or will they mosey on back to their local Ford dealership?