Canadian Ford dealers say they’re not worried about sales even as the automaker plans to drop most of its sedan models in North America. Dealers are also not surprised by the decision.
“I think most of the dealers — though I’m only speaking on my behalf — don’t see it as an issue,” said Craig Riley, chairman of Markville Ford-Lincoln in Unionville, Ont. “We see it as moving toward what the market [is] demanding right now. There’s been a dramatic change in the last three, four, five years and I look at it positively that Ford’s getting ahead of the wave.”
Riley said his dealership sells few cars compared to utility vehicles and pickups.
“If I’m selling 100 new [vehicles] a month, 80 to 90 of those are the SUV/truck products,” he said.
Those are retail sales and not fleet sales.
Ford announced in late April that it will not replace or refresh the current generations of its Fusion, Taurus, Focus and Fiesta sedans, leaving the Mustang as its only non-utility vehicle. In the United States, it will introduce a variation of the Focus, called the Focus Active, but it will not come to Canada.
“Right now, at our store, we don’t even sell Fiesta,” said Riley. “We used to, and it’s a great car, but maybe only one every couple of months. You know, Toyota and Honda own the car market, along with probably the Koreans Hyundai and Kia.”
Ford said in a statement that the lack of sedans will not create a hole in its portfolio.
“To respond to the needs of our customers and grow our business, we are significantly expanding our North America utility portfolio while also exploring new ‘white space’ vehicle silhouettes that combine the best attributes of cars and utilities such as higher ride height, space and versatility.”
Of the cars that Cam Clark Ford-Lincoln in North Vancouver sells today, the Focus and Mustang are by far the most popular, says Dick Lau, general manager. About 80 per cent of his car sales are split evenly between Focus and Mustang.
ENCLOSED TRUNKS SO YESTERDAY
“In our case, this will have very little impact on us. It makes sense to me,” he said, adding that families, grandparents and people with dogs are not interested in vehicles with an enclosed trunk.
“If there are pets in the house, then a sedan just isn’t in the equation.”
In Canada, Ford said the car segment has been declining since 2012 and now makes up about 33 per cent of the overall market, while utility vehicles account for about 44 per cent of all vehicle sales.
“This is not a new trend; this has been going on for years. Clearly, Ford is playing to its strengths,” says Robert Karwel, senior manager of the Power Information Network at J.D. Power Canada.
“Sergio Marchionne probably led the charge when he decided FCA was going to cease making Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart because he knew they had to free up capacity to build more Jeeps, more utility vehicles and more trucks. He was probably quite prescient in that decision.
“Will others do this? I’ve seen that all manufacturers are starting to not refresh, or lengthen the span between redesigning their car lines, as they need to refocus investment on their utility and light-truck lines. “I think you’re going to see car nameplates disappear, and they won’t come back.”