The locally made Ford Explorer SUV saw an 18.7% increase in sales in May compared to a year ago after months and months of decline caused by the shortage of chips.
Explorer sales have generally trended lower year-over-year during the coronavirus pandemic, largely due to semiconductor shortages that have rocked the global auto industry, shutting down the Chicago assembly plant for weeks, cutting shifts and leaving dealership lots half empty.
Overall Ford and Lincoln sales fell 4.5% to 146,868 last month from 153,582 in May 2021.
In May, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker reported a 5.7% drop in retail sales; a 1.4% drop in retail truck sales; a 4.4% decline in retail SUV sales; and a 221.5% increase in electrified retail sales. Ford’s overall truck sales fell 3.7% and overall SUV sales 1.9% last month.
Ford has been phasing out low-margin cars, selling just 3,241 last month, down 45.3% from 5,926 in May 2021. It has changed its strategy to focus on pickups and trucks. More expensive, higher-margin SUVs are fattening its profit margin and is now projecting it will become the second-largest maker of electric vehicles in the United States.
“While the global shortage of semiconductor chips remains an issue for the industry, our inventory continues to turn at a record pace with nearly 505 of our retail sales coming from orders previously placed,” said Andrew Frick, Vice President of Ford. “Our newer models, including Bronco, Bronco Sport and Maverick, continue to increase our sales volume. Our electric vehicle sales, with the addition of the F-150 Lightning this month, grew 222%, nearly four times the industry rate.”
In May, Ford sold 19,594 units of the Explorer, which is manufactured at the southernmost Chicago Assembly Plant near the state line, compared to 16,512 units in the same month in 2021 After semiconductor shortages, factory closures and operating in just two shifts, Explorer sales are down 23.6% from the first five months of 2021, with 83,131 units sold compared to 108 796 during the same period the previous year.
In 2019, Ford also began manufacturing the Lincoln Aviator at the Chicago Assembly Plant after phasing out the Lincoln MKS and Ford Taurus. SUV sales fell 8.1% to 2,083 units last month from 1,927 in the same period a year earlier. Airmen sales fell 12.9% to 9,452 units sold through the end of May, from 10,857 units in the first five months of 2021.
Ford employs more than 5,810 workers at the Chicago Assembly Plant and another 1,290 at the Chicago Stamping Plant on US 30 in Chicago Heights. They have often been out of work during the pandemic because the plant has been shut down multiple times due to the lack of semiconductors used in rear view cameras, lane assist and other modern features.