Ford’s first-quarter sales fell 17% as the automaker battled a chip shortage

DETROIT – Ford Motor’s U.S. sales of new vehicles declined 17% during the first quarter, including a 26% slide last month, as it battles a global shortage of semiconductor chips.

The automaker on Monday reported first-quarter sales of 432,132 vehicles, including 159,328 units in March. Those figures were in line with analyst expectations.

Andrew Frick, Ford’s vice president of sales, distribution and trucks, said the company experienced some positive signs heading into the spring selling season.

“While the global semiconductor chip shortage continues to create challenges, we saw improvement in March sales, as in-transit inventory improved 74% over February. F-Series had a record 50,000 new retail orders in March, while a record 41% of our overall retail sales came from previously placed retail orders,” he said in a statement.

Sales of Ford’s trucks were off 23% during the first quarter. Car sales were down 49%, while SUV sales were off just 5.1%.

Sales of Ford’s highly profitable F-Series pickups, including the F-150 and its larger siblings, were down 31% during the first quarter, including a 47% decline in March. On improved inventory, Ford said its SUV sales increased 39% compared with February.

Automakers such as Ford have been managing a global shortage of semiconductor chips for more than a year. The parts scarcity has caused sporadic shutdowns of plants and depleted new vehicle inventories.

Ford is among the last of the major automakers to report its March and first-quarter sales. U.S. new-vehicle sales overall for January through March likely came in below 3.3 million, down 14% from the first quarter of 2021, industry analysts say.

Ford touted demand for its newest vehicles, such as the Bronco and Bronco Sport SUVs and the Maverick small pickup truck. March Maverick sales increased 115% from February, with the average vehicle selling off a dealer lot just four days after arrival.

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