Ford U.S. auto sales continue recovery on pickup demand

(Reuters) - Ford Motor Co F.N on Friday continued to show signs of a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as demand for sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks helped boost third-quarter sales in the United States.

FILE PHOTO: Ford Ranger Raptor is seen during the media day of the 41st Bangkok International Motor Show after the Thai government eased measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

The U.S. auto sector has climbed back quicker than other industries, but automakers had a hand in that with aggressive incentives like zero-for-84 months financing, payment deferrals and job assurance programs.

Ford posted a 5% fall in U.S. auto sales for the third quarter but said a continuing recovery from pandemic-induced lockdowns helped it record better sales compared with the second quarter.

The No.2 U.S. automaker, which announces its quarterly sales volumes a day later than the rest of the industry, said it sold 551,796 vehicles in the country in the quarter, down from 580,251 a year earlier.

Its sales were, however, up 27.2% when compared with the preceding quarter.

“The seasonally adjusted sales pace for September demonstrated yet another sequential improvement for the industry, and a return to near pre-virus levels ... a print 16.4mn is not far off the 17mn level we saw from 2015-19,” Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy said.

“It remains to be seen if this level of sales can be sustained near-term.”

Bigger rival General Motors Co GM.N reported a 10% decline in sales on Thursday and said the auto sales have been even more resilient and made a substantial rebound in the third quarter.

While overall industry sales in the quarter were down, the trend was positive as demand increased each month, especially among retail consumers for high-profit SUVs and pickup trucks.

Sales for its F-Series pickup-truck rose 3.5% in the quarter when compared with a year ago, marking its best pickup sales since 2005, Ford said.

Reporting by Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel