Ford F-150 picking up steam

Ford executives can breathe easier now that the redesigned F-150 -- the high-volume pickup truck that could make or break the company's turnaround effort -- is selling briskly in its first full month on the market, the Detroit News said. Ford president Steve Lyons told the newspaper in an interview that his company now expects to set a September record for full-size pickup sales - the current record is 74,787 F-series pickups in September 2001. Lyons reportedly added that, if F-150 sales continue to accelerate in the remaining three months of the year, the Ford brand could avoid losing market share this year - to the end of August, the Ford brand claimed 17.2 percent of the U.S. market, down from 17.5 percent last year. Lyons told the Detroit News that, on average, dealers are selling the new F-150 within six days of receiving the truck from Ford, compared with the 30 to 60 days it typically takes to "turn" a vehicle. Another encouraging sign for Ford is that 55 percent of the new F-150s sold have been the more profitable four-wheel drive version, the report added. Rod Lache, of Deutsche Bank Securities, told the paper that, historically, four-wheel drive models account for 40 percent of big pickup truck sales. The Detroit News said buyers have been snapping up the posh Lariat version of the 2004 F-150, which features a floor-mounted gear shifter and an interior trimmed in leather and wood. The paper noted that demand for the pricey versions of the trucks -- combined with low incentives -- should give Ford a boost in revenue, although the gains will be offset by the $1,000 to $2,000 in additional costs that Ford engineered into the new F-150.

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