Even with two truck plants collectively idle for 13 weeks this year as workers prepare to build the 2015 F-150, Ford will not run out of 2014 models because it will carefully draw down pickup truck inventory over 18 months, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas.
The plan has been in the works since last year and included adding a third crew of workers at the Kansas City plant last August, Hinrichs told reporters.
Ford has no intention of giving up its leadership in the pickup truck market while it retools body shops in Dearborn and Kansas City. Ford will switch from traditional steel-bodied trucks to aluminum bodies and beds on a steel frame.
Ford officials have planned a long sell-down of the old model that will continue throughout 2014 and into next year. Production of the 2015 model begins in Dearborn at the end of the year and in Kansas City early next year.
Each plant was down for three weeks in January, and will take one week off next month for the regular summer shutdown. Dearborn will take off three more weeks this summer; 10 by year's end. Most of Kansas City's downtime will be next year. Ford will produce 91,000 fewer trucks as a result.
But dealers should have enough to meet demand because inventories have been increased and carefully managed since the additional workers were added last summer, Hinrichs said.
The last time Ford came out with a new generation truck, in 2006, it kept building the outgoing model for awhile in Ontario and sold it as a classic truck.
"We don't have that third plant now," Hinrichs said. "We don't have that luxury."
Ford wants to avoid offering large incentives during the transition. The strategy cost sales and some market share in April and might also dampen overall sales in May.
"We definitely know how to sell trucks," Hinrichs said. "If we wanted to, we could sell a lot more trucks."
Ford has a loyal consumer base. Data suggests Chrysler's Ram pickups have gained share at the expense of the Chevrolet Silverado more than taking sales from the F-150.
The average sales price for fullsize pickups is up more than $3,000 from a year ago, said Erich Merkle, Ford U.S. sales analyst.
The tougher price battle is for small and midsize cars and crossovers where competitors are offering attractive deals. In May, Ford did respond to "some incentive action," Hinrichs said.
Ford is hoping the freshened Focus coming this fall will boost sagging small car sales. The automaker is beginning to ship its new Lincoln MKC crossover to dealers.
Ford provided guidance last year that it will lose market share this year with 16 launches in North America alone and profit margins will be 8-9% compared with 10% in 2013.
Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle
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