Ford Pickup Shows U.S. Economy Could Start to Pick Up

Last Updated Sep 1, 2009 3:24 PM EDT

Sales picked up in August for the battered Ford F-Series pickup, potentially an encouraging sign for the U.S. economy, since many Ford pickups are bought for use in commercial fleets, construction and home-building.

"There are widespread indications of a positive trend in housing," said Emily Kolinsky-Morris, senior economist for Ford. A turnaround in housing could also help drive growth in jobs and the overall U.S. economy, she said.

The government's Cash for Clunkers incentive program also played a big role in boosting U.S. auto sales in August, analysts said.

Ford announced today its U.S. auto sales were 176,323 in August, a 17-percent increase versus the year-ago month. That was the second monthly increase in a row for Ford, and the largest by far for the company, since U.S. auto sales fell apart in late 2008.

Ford's U.S. sales in July were 1.6 percent above the year-ago month. That was Ford's first year-over-year increase since the present downturn began.

The F-150 pickup is Ford's best-selling model and a perennial best-seller for the entire U.S. market. Ford launched the newest generation of the F-150 in November 2008. That was one of the worst possible times to introduce a new full-size pickup, just as gas prices turned a gradual decline in full-size truck sales into a rout.

To say the new F-150 got off to a slow start is to put it nicely. For all of 2008, its sales were down 25.4 percent, to 515,513, according to AutoData Corp. Through July 2009, despite the all-new model, its sales were down 32.4 percent, to 215,959 year to date.

Ford sold 45,590 units of the F-Series pickup in August, 13 percent above the year-ago month. That was the best month for the F-Series since March 2008, and the first year-over-year increase for the pickup in almost three years, since October 2006, according to George Pipas, Ford U.S. sales analysis manager.