Ford workers produce the electric F-150 Lightning pickup on Dec. 13, 2022 at the automaker’s Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center (REVC).
Michael Wayland | CNBC
DETROIT — Ford Motor‘s new U.S. vehicle sales started 2023 on a stronger footing than a year earlier but were down 18.4% from December, the company reported Thursday.
January is historically one of the weakest months of the year, while December is one of the strongest. Still, the month-over-month decline is notable as the worst for the automaker since a 28% drop between May and June of last year. Between December 2021 and January 2022, sales declined 17.4%.
The automotive industry continues to navigate through some supply chain and production issues, although the flow of parts and vehicle production this year is expected to be more consistent than in recent years. Morgan Stanley said Thursday that U.S. auto sales last month smashed expectations: It estimated the seasonally adjusted selling rate at 16.2 million compared with expectations of 15.5 million.
For January, Ford reported a 2% increase in sales from a year earlier to 146,356 vehicles sold. The uptick was led by sales increases of 8.8% for F-Series pickups, 25.5% for Broncos, and 52% for Bronco Sport SUVs — as well as a doubling of its electric vehicle sales, which have been and remain minimal. EVs made up 3.6% of Ford’s monthly sales.
Some of the automaker’s crossovers such as the Ford Edge and Escape experienced double-digit declines from a year earlier.
Stock comparison between Ford, General Motors and Tesla.
“We are pleased with the strong sales start to the year with our gains being driven by record electric vehicle sales, F-Series trucks and Broncos,” Ford spokesman Said Depp said in an email to CNBC.
Ford’s EV sales — a major focus of Wall Street — increased to 5,247 units in January, led by a roughly 11% increase in sales of its electric Mustang Mach-E crossover. The automaker sold 2,264 units of its electric F-150 Lightning pickup in January.
Last week Ford announced it was increasing production and cutting prices of the Mach-E, weeks after industry leader Tesla announced similar plans for its EVs.
The Mach-E led Ford to become the second-bestselling automaker of EVs last year in the U.S., albeit trailing Tesla by a wide margin. Ford sold more than 65,000 EVs in the U.S. last year. Motor Intelligence estimates Tesla, which does not report sales by region, sold more than 522,000 EVs in the U.S. in 2022.
Ford’s January sales come ahead of the automaker releasing fourth-quarter and 2022 earnings results Thursday after markets close. In October, Ford confirmed its prior full-year guidance of adjusted earnings before interest and taxes of between $11.5 billion and $12.5 billion.
— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.