Breaking Down the Numbers—the August Auto Sales Numbers

This is Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey.

This is Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey. If you watched football on TV this past weekend, chances are better than good that you saw McConaughey. Oh yes, and the Lincoln MKC.

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McConaughey is appearing in a series of advertisements for this compact crossover. Jon Pence, chief creative officer of Hudson Rouge, the outfit that produced the ads, said that McConaughey is “authentic” in the sense that he certainly seems to believe in the brand and, presumably, the MKC.

The point of this is not the actor, not the reality, but the MKC.

Because last week, the industry reported its sales numbers. And the numbers for Lincoln were probably not what the people at the brand hoped for. At least that’s what I think. Joe White of the Wall Street Journal is not so sure.

According to numbers from Ford comparing August ’14 with August ‘13:

MKZ -22%

MKS -48%

MKX -5.6%

MKT -43.2%

Navigator -12.9%

Not good.

But they’re rolling out with MKC. In August, 1,760 were sold. As this is, as the Lincoln folks like to say, “the first-ever Lincoln MKC,” there is nothing to compare it with.

John McElroy, host of Autoline After Hours, notes that it is not a good thing for the MKZ’s numbers to be off, that the brand needs momentum in the car category.

But then Joe White comes back with an interesting observation. Take the number of MKZs sold last August—3,652—and subtract the number sold this August—2841. That is a difference of 811. So, in effect, he suggests, it may be that the people who might have otherwise gone for an MKZ went for an MKC, so the company comes out ahead.

As is the case of a comeback that you’d wished you made but only came up with it a few hours later, given that a competitor, say, Audi, had a sales increase of 22.1% in August compared to Lincoln’s 0.6% decrease, that it sold more than twice as many vehicles—17,101 vs. 8,146—then the people who are sitting in the top-level offices at the Ford Motor Company are going to have to think long and hard about things, perhaps chanting “China, China, China,” where Lincoln is supposed to do very well.

But then Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific, points out, in real-time, not ex-post-facto like my Audi observation, that there is a hefty tariff placed on vehicles imported into China, and as the MKC is currently being built only in Kentucky, and the competitors (e.g., Audi) have joint-venture operations in China so they’re not paying the toll, even that could be problematic for Lincoln.

If you’re interested in the dissection of the sales numbers, then watch White, Sullivan, McElroy, and me in this edition of Autoline After Hours.

And we do talk about things other than the sales numbers, like Elon Musk’s announcement that Telsa is going to build a $500-million battery plant in Nevada and the fact that Renault-Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn seems to be losing top-staff at a remarkably brisk pace: