Ford’s bullish on EVs, ramping up production and investing billions of dollars.
But the automaker is having a hard time moving Mach-E and Lightning EVs inventory.
Ford dealers are selling fewer Ford EVs than they were this time last year.
Ford appears to have an electric vehicle inventory problem.
In a sign that Ford’s EV ambitions are still outpacing demand, the company’s sales numbers, amount of EV supply, and dealer sentiment all indicate the Blue Oval is sitting on more Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning pickup trucks than it can sell.
Ford dealers were able to sell 86.4% of their Mach-E inventory within 30 days in the second quarter of 2022, but that figure — known as a turn rate — dropped to 27.7% in the same period of 2023 even as the automaker had over twice as much inventory on the market, according to data from analytics firm Cloud Theory.
Ford’s second-quarter sales of the Mach-E fell 21% from 2022 (10,941 vehicles) to the same period this year (8,633).
Erich Merkle, Ford’s head of US sales analysis, pointed out that Ford’s EV sales overall were up nearly 12% through June. He also said that all of the unsold Mach-E inventory isn’t just sitting on dealer lots, because it spends more time in transit. About 52% of undelivered Mach-Es are still in transit, he said.
Deliveries of the Lighting are also up this year compared to last year, when production of the vehicle was still ramping up, but the rate of sales appears to be slowing, according to data from Cloud Theory. They say the automaker sold 70% of its Lightning inventory within 30 days in the second quarter last year, but has only been able to sell 39.3% of it within that time frame so far in 2023.
Ford’s targeting EV production of 600,000 vehicles this year. But while it plows $50 billion into the new programs, it’s expecting to lose at least $3 billion in the process and likely won’t turn a profit on the segment for three years. In fact, it’s losing about $58,000 on each EV it sells (not abnormal for the first few years of a launch.) Hefty rebates and steep price cuts to keep up with Tesla’s price war aren’t helping profitability, either.
At the same time, it required dealers to spend anywhere from $500,000 to over $1 million to become “EV certified” to sell the expensive and usually unprofitable vehicles.
That’s turning some dealers away from EVs
One East Coast Ford dealer told Insider that while they’re bullish about and invested in EVs, Ford’s current production rate is out of step with customer demand. (The dealer spoke with Insider on the condition of anonymity, out of concern for professional repercussions. Their identity is known to Insider.)
“I think Ford’s got a real problem on their hands based on the bets they’ve made,” they said. “I have Lightnings in stock and Mach-Es in stock. We’ve never had that before.”
Ford dealers are given monthly allocations from Ford’s assembly plants based on dealer needs and specific market demands. EV allocation has been a point of contention for some Ford dealers, who have claimed in lawsuits that Ford’s EV sales requirements violate franchise laws.
“I think production is exceeding demand,” the East Coast dealer added. “We are able to decline allocation… We didn’t decline any model except EVs.” They noted, anecdotally, other Ford dealers that they speak with have declined some of their Mach-E allocation from Ford.
Merkle, of Ford, was not able to immediately confirm whether dealers were turning away Mach-E allocations.
The EV market is having its first growing pains
Ford is not alone in its struggle to match EV production with demand. Even Tesla, the world’s top seller of electric vehicles, has had trouble with bloated inventory this year, leading to a series of price reductions and deals on Supercharger miles.
Rival GM, which is also investing billions of dollars into electrification, also has very low electric vehicle sales numbers. Through June, GM had sold 2,316 Cadillac Lyriq EVs and 49 Hummer EVs. For Hummer, that’s compared to 371 deliveries in the same period in 2022.
This is all a reflection of how difficult the next five or ten years will be for EVs now that the industry has surpassed the early-adopter market, industry analysts say. As the US car industry nears EV sales totaling 10% of the market, a plateau is appearing, Karl Brauer, an executive analyst for iSeeCars told Insider.
“There seems to be this natural resistance somewhere between 7% and 10% of market share in a given state,” Brauer said, citing a recent iSeeCars study that found the states with the biggest EV sales are also the slowest growing. “That seems to be the cap, and then it gets much harder to grow it further.”
Lightning orders still not getting filled
As for the Lightning, Ford said it received more than 200,000 Lightning reservations at the end of 2021; with its production plans, a three year backlog. Ford reopened its Lightning order book for non-reservation holders this spring.
But one Ford dealer in the Midwest, who also spoke to Insider on the condition of anonymity, says many Lightning orders are still sitting uncompleted in the bank for extended periods of time. That leaves order holders with plenty of time to pick up a different EV before their Lightning finally arrives.
This could cause problems as these Lightnings arrive on dealer lots, the Midwest dealer said. Many EV sellers have had trouble converting order-holders into owners as many prospective EV customers have put in multiple reservations with the plan of taking whichever vehicle arrived first.
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