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The “F” in Ford Stands for “Fleet” – Ford Fleet Sales Lead Industry

When Ford and GM owners brag about sales figures to somehow “prove” their trucks are the best available, I say three things:

  1. Consumers aren’t always rational – They don’t necessarily buy the “best” car or truck on the market. There’s a lot of emotion in car purchases.
  2. Sales figures are influenced by a variety of factors – From incentives to geography to politics to a consumer’s previous experiences. You can’t study them in a vacuum.
  3. Fleet sales – Ford and GM roll massive numbers of fleet trucks into their sales figures.

I’m going to focus on #3 right now (you can read more about #1 and #2 here).

The news today is that almost one-third of Ford’s sales are to fleets, which are defined by convention as companies owning at least 15 trucks. Chrysler-Fiat? 30% GM? Just 26%.

Here are fleet sales numbers for the first quarter of 2012, courtesy of Automotive News (subs. req’d):

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:

  1. There are numerous publications that take the time to rank and review every new car every year.
  2. There are numerous independent companies that rate the quality and reliability of every new vehicle on the market.
  3. 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.