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Ford Motor says gas prices, for the first time, are affecting sales of its F-150 pickup, the country’s best-selling vehicle. According to a report by USA Today, it’s a sign gas price woes are penetrating even the most stable vehicle segments.
“In some cases, the full-size-truck buyer can sit on the sidelines and defer their purchase,” said George Pipas, Ford’s manager of sales analysis, discussing April sales results. Still, “We don’t see this buyer leaving the market.”
F-series sales were down 9.3% in April from a year ago. Sales of Ford Explorer, which has been the top-selling SUV in the country, were off a stunning 42%. In April, Explorer was outsold by the smaller Toyota RAV4 SUV.
Gas prices went up nearly 40% during April, and industrywide sales showed signs that fuel efficiency is becoming a bigger selling point than in years past. Overall sales were down 4.2%, according to sales tracker Autodata. But truck sales were off 7%, while car sales were down just 1%.
“There has been a permanent shift in consumers’ minds as far as gas prices goes,” said Jesse Toprak of car-buying site Edmunds.com. “The sustained nature of gas prices has changed how people buy.”
Toprak said that just five years ago, car shoppers rarely asked how fuel-efficient a car or truck was. “Now, for vehicles priced under $40,000, it is one of the first questions people ask,” he said.
Domestic automakers, which are more dependent on truck sales, continued to lose share in April. Ford’s overall sales were off 6.8%. Its car sales rose 8.3% but couldn’t offset a 14.8% drop in trucks. DaimlerChrysler sales were down 6.2%, led by an 18.1% decline in trucks.
The exception: General Motors’ sales fell 10.8%, but the bulk came from a 21% decline in car sales. Truck sales were down 2.7% despite new SUVs such as the Chevy Tahoe, which had a 24% sales increase.
Paul Ballew, GM’s executive director of global market and industry analysis, said the company will likely focus its marketing efforts on the fuel efficiency of its lineup. “We have to continue to deliver our message to inform people just how good we are,” he said.
Toyota again reported a drop in sales of its hybrid sedan, Prius. And Toyota again said that’s because demand outstripped supply.