Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Why Toyota and Ford are Loving March


If you believe the early forecasts, March is turning out to be a great month for two automakers driving down to very different roads. One is kicking sales into overdrive with a product line-up that is in demand while the other is jump-starting sales after the biggest crisis to ever rock the company. Their situations may be different, but Ford and Toyota are finding a way to connect with buyers.

forecasts that Toyota's sales in March will increase 37% compared to March of last year and a whopping 82% compared to February. Amazing what a major ad blitz and extremely generous incentives can do for a struggling company. Frankly, the numbers don't surprise me.  The 37% boost year over year is understandable given how horrendous sales were in March of last year. Remember, a year ago, the stock market bottomed out, there was genuine fear about when the economy's slide would end, and auto sales were in the tank. Going up against that dismal month, Toyota could have rolled four wheels and a metal frame into showrooms and matched last year's sales.   

More intriguing is the projection of Toyota boosting sales 82% over last month.  Yes, the 0% financing special attracted buyers and the big commercial ad blitz certainly helped as well. But when I've talked with Toyota dealers around the country, almost every one says the same thing: Their customers this month are current Toyota owners trading up for a new car or truck. In other words, Toyota's deep and loyal base of customers is ready to buy another Toyota, despite the recall crisis. That is one more reason why I believe Toyota will be able to weather this storm better than many expected when it first hit late last year.

As for Ford, the projection of sales jumping 55.5% year over year is proof the company is in the "sweet spot" of the market. Not surprisingly, Ford is projecting it will likely pick up retail market share for the month. Where are the Ford customers coming from?  Increasingly, they are people gravitating to Ford from the competition. The company says its "conquest rate" from other brands to the Ford brand has increased 18% over the last four years. The conquest rate for Lincoln has surged an amazing 61% and for Mercury it's nudged up 12%. The Fusion, Escape and redesigned Taurus are the models attracting the most buyers from other brands. Ford and Toyota. Two companies on different paths enjoying a spring surge.

Questions?  Comments?