Ford closed out 2019 with a 3% drop in full-year U.S. sales as the continued phase-out of models including the Focus and Taurus helped offset strong performance from its F-Series trucks, Transit vans and Lincoln luxury SUVs. But combing through its year-end sales data revealed two peculiar trends: the surprisingly persistent sales of two of its endangered small cars and the decline in sales of the Escape crossover, one of the vehicles meant to plug the gap they leave behind and despite a redesign for 2020.
Let’s look at Ford’s endangered cars first, remembering that Ford in 2018 announced plans to end production of all its cars and sedans for the U.S. to focus (sorry) on hot-selling trucks and SUVs. And the results are largely as you’d expect, with steep declines for the Focus, which is now phased out in the U.S., and the once-mighty Taurus, which ended production in March.
But lo, here comes the pint-sized Fiesta, which ended the year up a hefty 16.3% to 60,148 units, despite a sizable fourth-quarter decline likely due to dwindling inventory. That dwarfs sales of the Honda Fit subcompact hatchback, which managed sales of 35,414 last year. Clearing them off lots with substantial discounts might have had something to do with it, but perhaps consumers were eager to snatch up the hatchback while they still can, since production ended earlier this year.
The Fusion sedan also saw a big drop in sales during the fourth quarter, yet Ford still managed to sell a very respectable 166,045 of them last year, down just 4.4% year over year. That compares favorably to competitors: the Chevrolet Malibu sold 131,917 in 2019, the Kia Optima 96,623 and the Hyundai Sonata (87,466).
Meanwhile, Ford has been banking on the venerable Escape crossover to help make up for its dwindling lineup of cars like the Focus. However, Ford saw Escape sales slide 23.5% in the last three months of the year. It ended the year with sales of 241,388 — certainly a robust figure, but also down 11.3% from 2018. It is possible the production/generation switch and subsequent inventory issues caused this decline.
A Ford spokesperson told Autoblog that this was due to the switchover from generation to generation, and the subsequent ramping up of 2020 production. The new model accounted for just 37% of Escape sales. He also said Ford remains committed to its plans to unveil new SUVs like the upcoming Bronco and Baby Bronco, and of course the Mustang Mach-E electric performance crossover, while pointing out declining car sales at various competitors.
It's worth noting that Ford made its decision to ditch cars when it was still selling more than 400,000 of them annually because it saw declining sales and, perhaps more importantly, profits from the segment. So it's not likely that anyone is second-guessing themselves in Dearborn.
This story was been updated from its original version with the above response from Ford.