Attention Ford Fans: Sales Figures Don’t Matter
It’s popular in the Ford truck community to brag about the fact that the F-series has been #1 in truck sales in the US for 30+ years running. The idea is that, because Ford sells the most trucks, they must make the best truck.
The trouble is, this logic is based on a false assumption. Sales figures aren’t proof of quality because consumer behavior isn’t logical. In fact, when it comes to cars, consumer buying behavior is incredibly illogical. Consider the following:
- There are numerous publications that take the time to rank and review every new car every year.
- There are numerous independent companies that rate the quality and reliability of every new vehicle on the market.
- Despite strong reviews and strong ratings for quality, many cars fail to make sales gains in the marketplace. Conversely, vehicles with poor quality ratings and bad reviews are still sold.
This is because, at the end of the day, vehicle sales aren’t just about vehicle quality. They’re also about emotions, perceptions, politics, personal experience, and more.
Vehicle Consumers And Logic
Why do some people buy convertibles? They’re more expensive than a comparable coupe, they don’t offer as much performance, and they’re usually not as safe. What’s the logic in that decision?
Why do some people buy Land Rover? The Land Rover brand has never been known for quality or reliability, and most of the time Land Rover ranks near the bottom of JD Power and Consumer Reports quality and reliability studies…yet 30k+ people bought Land Rovers in 2010. Some of them spent upwards of $75k, despite the fact that vehicles from Lexus, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, GMC, etc. all have better ratings (and very often better reviews).
Why do some people buy trucks or SUVs as commuter vehicles? It’s cheaper to buy a car.
Why do some people buy an SUV when a minivan would make more sense? A minivan is less expensive, safer, more convenient, more fuel efficient, etc. – why aren’t they more popular?
Why do some people buy a Lexus ES when it’s damn near the same as an XLE Camry? The Camry is less expensive and almost the same…doesn’t it make more sense to buy the Camry than the ES?
Question: Why do people act so illogically when they buy cars?
The answer is, we’re human. We buy what we want, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s our right as free consumers to do whatever the hell we want with our money regardless of logic, common sense, etc.
For the record, I’m just as guilty as anyone. I’ve owned a convertible. I’ve driven a big truck as a commuter vehicle. I’ve wasted money on stereos, lift kits, wheels, big tires, graphics, alarm systems…you name the accessory, I’ve wasted money on it.
…and I’m no different than most people. While there was logic in many of my vehicle decisions, few of them were entirely logical. I’m not perfect – and neither is the average American vehicle buyer.
Sales Figures and Consumer Logic Don’t Mix
So, now that we’ve all acknowledged that consumers aren’t always logical when it’s time to buy a car, let’s head back to the claim that many Ford fans make about the F-series.
“Ford sells more trucks than anyone else. Therefore, they make the best truck.”
Wrong. The two aren’t related because 1) Consumers aren’t always logical, and 2) Sales are influenced by numerous “outliers” such as:
- Pricing and incentives – Manufacturers can “buy” sales by under-pricing their vehicles, messing with lease residuals, etc.
- Loyalty – Consumers – especially truck consumers – are fiercely loyal. Ford owners especially so.
- Styling – People buy what they like based on looks.
- “Fun to drive” factor – People buy something because it’s “fun” (convertible, anyone?)
- Perceptions about patriotism. Some people won’t buy “foreign” cars regardless of where the cars are actually built.
- Previous purchase experiences. Good or bad, previous experiences are a big factor.
- Dealership personnel. Ever been to a dealership where the salesperson was a complete and total d-bag? Did that one person color your perception of the entire brand? Me too.
- Media reports. Many people refuse to acknowledge that “domestic” car companies GM, Ford, and Chrysler-Fiat are closing the quality gap with Honda and Toyota. Conversely, erroneous and incorrect reports of “unintended acceleration” damaged Toyota sales in the last year or so. Thanks, LA Slimes!
- Fuel costs. Remember in 2008 when people panicked over fuel costs? Car dealers couldn’t give away an SUV in those days, yet today’s gas prices are just as high as they were in 2008 and SUV sales are strong.
- Global events. From earthquakes and tsunamis to worker strikes and bankruptcy filings, there are outside factors that influence sales.
Now I know what you’re saying:
Jason, that’s all well and good, but each of these factors effects all auto manufacturers. Why should we discount sales figures if every manufacturer has to deal with the same set of problems?
The answer? Pricing and loyalty are first and second for a reason. Ford (and GM) enjoy incredible economies of scale that allow them to out-price competitors in the truck segment, so they typically sell more than everyone else every year on this basis alone.
Second, we have loyalty. How many people know a Ford or GM or Ram truck owner who absolutely refuses to entertain any other brand of truck? It’s completely illogical…yet it’s very, very common. According to JD Power, Ford owners are even more loyal than Honda owners in this regard.
Sales Figures Are Proof Of Nothing More Than Sales
My final proof that sales figures aren’t proof of vehicle quality or reliability? Chrysler.
Even the most *casual* review of any Consumer Reports, JD Power study, etc. between the years of 1980 and 2008 would have shown that Chrysler’s overall quality was significantly below the quality of competing companies in all segments – excepting perhaps the minivan and the Grand Cherokee. According to the experts, Chrysler made a below average product for years, and yet people kept buying them…how do you explain that?
Question: Why would people willingly buy a product that was determined to be inferior by every major automotive review organization?
Answer: Because they never did any research. They just showed up and bought a new Chrysler cause’ that’s what they’d always done. If they had cracked a Consumer Reports during most of the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s, they would have bought something else.
Am I saying that Ford only sells F-Series because of consumer loyalty? No. They make great vehicles, and to their credit Ford quality is only getting better. However, sales figures aren’t a simple thing. Low costs and a large existing customer base give Ford sales momentum, but sales momentum isn’t proof of quality.
Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com