Ford says U.S. sales fall 14 percent in March

1/04/2008 - 18:07

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co said on Tuesday its U.S. sales fell 14 percent in March as weaker sales of trucks and sport-utility vehicles more than offset gains for its new vehicles, such as the Edge crossover.

Sales of light trucks were down 16.7 percent from a year earlier, while car sales were down 9.6 percent.

The automaker said its retail sales were down 17 percent, while sales to fleet customers, including car rental agencies, were down 13 percent.

Sales of Ford's market-leading F-Series pickup trucks were down almost 24 percent. Overall, Ford sold 227,143 vehicles compared with 264,975 a year earlier.

The results were broadly in line with the expectations of industry analysts, who had forecast weak sales results across the industry in March due to the ongoing housing slump, tighter credit and more cautious consumer sentiment.

Ford was the first of the six major automakers to report monthly sales results for the U.S. market, the world's largest.

Ford reports its sales figures without adjusting for the number of sales days in the month. Other major automakers, including Toyota Motor Co <7203.T>, report the adjusted figures more widely tracked by analysts and investors.

There were 26 selling days in March, two fewer than a year earlier, meaning that Ford's adjusted sales decline would have been 7.6 percent.

Analysts had forecast an adjusted sales decline of up to 10 percent for Ford, now the third-largest automaker in the U.S. market behind Toyota.

Despite the overall sales decline, Ford pointed to success with its new Focus sedan, where sales rose 24 percent from a year earlier. In a statement, the company also said its Edge crossover was selling more strongly outside its strongest market in the Great Lakes region.

Ford shares were up over 2 percent at $5.85 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki; editing by John Wallace)

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