Canada’s Ford dealers will have to rely on incentives to sell sedans in a weakening market amid the absence of a national marketing campaign for the automaker’s car lineup.
Ford’s national ad campaigns have excluded its sedans for the past few years as the automaker looked to emphasize its lineup of pickups, crossovers and SUVs, Ford of Canada spokesman Matt Drennan-Scace said.
“We plan to continue with that strategy as we enhance our vehicle portfolio, which will feature three more models in 2023 than it does today,” Drennan-Scace wrote in an email to Automotive News Canada. “Regional advertising is also a priority, and we will continue to work with Ford and Ford-Lincoln dealers as our showroom transforms to provide Canadians with new vehicles that better address the attributes they value most.”
Regional advertising “may include sedans,” depending on the market and input from dealers, he said.
Ford said in April that it would end sales of its car lineup outside of the Mustang as it focused resources on hot-selling crossovers, utilities and pickups. That spells the eventual end of the line for the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and Taurus in Canada.
Dealers, meanwhile, will have to sell those cars without the help of national ads. Scott Ohler, general manager of Rose City Ford in Windsor, Ont., said that while his dealership traditionally sells cars at a high rate, its local marketing echoes Ford’s national strategy, focusing mostly on light trucks and the Mustang.
“We are spending a significant amount [of marketing] on Mustang, but we don’t spend much at all marketing the Fusion or Focus, with the balance of our budget spent on the F-150, of course, and SUVs and crossovers,” Ohler said.
TRUCK MARKET ‘AGGRESSIVE’
Incentives are expected to play a large role in selling cars in the coming months as some of those models reach the end of their respective runs. But, Dick Lau, dealer principal at Cam Clark FordLincoln in North Vancouver, B.C., said car buyers have fewer options, while truck buyers have more options, prompting automakers to use incentives as a way to stand out in a crowded market.
“Because the truck market is more aggressive and bigger, truck buyers tend to look for incentives a little bit more than car buyers.”
The impending demise of cars could boost sales, said Ohler. For example, demand for Focus is picking up because buyers know it won’t be around much longer, he said. “I’m starting to see the sell rates accelerate because people are recognizing that if they do want to purchase a Focus, it’s going to have to happen quick.”
Ford no longer builds the North American version of the Focus, and production of the Taurus and Fiesta is expected to end in 2019. The end date for the Fusion is unclear, as dealers will soon sell the 2019 model.
Through September, combined sales of the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and Taurus in Canada were 24,385, down 15.9 per cent from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the automaker sold 212,669 pickups and utility vehicles, down 0.9 per cent.
As in Canada, Ford said in September it ended U.S. national marketing for cars. Mark LaNeve, vice-president of U.S. marketing, told sibling publication Automotive News in Detroit that Ford would “keep [the Fusion] competitive on incentives.”
Ohler said his dealership would focus on moving car customers into utilities such as the Ford Escape or EcoSport.
“The Taurus was a good volume piece for us at one point, and those customers have already transitioned into Explorers and Edges and those types of vehicles,” he said. “Ford is just recognizing that we don’t control customer tendencies and preferences. They’re just recognizing the market for what it is and adapting.”
Lau agreed, saying it was rare to see truck drivers buy a new car.
“We very seldom see people in a CUV or a truck go back to a car,” he said.