Of the top 10 selling sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers, the Escape from Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is the only one to post a year-over-year sales decline for the year to date. Sales are down 5.7% for the year and fell 8.4% in March.
The Escape dropped its second-place ranking behind the Honda CR-V to trail sales of the Nissan Rogue in March. For the first three months of the year, the CR-V has sold 73,127 units to the Escape’s 67,272 and Rogue’s 64,486. The Toyota RAV-4 has sold 67,010 units and the Chevy Equinox sold 65,613.
The Escape is one of just a handful of models that Ford did not refresh or issue as a new model for 2015. Part of the reason for the slowing sales could be the release in March of a refreshed midsize SUV, the Ford Edge. Although Edge sales were down more than 26% year-over-year in March and are down nearly 30% for the first quarter, Ford expects the new Edge to attract more buyers to the vehicle during a short 2015 model year that ends this fall with the release of the company’s new 2016 model.
Ford sold 306,212 units of the Escape in the United States in 2014, the highest total ever for the vehicle. At its current pace, sales could drop to around 270,000 units in 2015. That is not good news because the Escape has been the company’s third best-selling vehicle behind the F-150 pickup and the midsize Fusion.
Some of the customers for the Escape could be moving to the larger Explorer, which saw sales rise 17% in March and nearly 25% for the first quarter. Lower gasoline prices certainly help Explorer sales, and sales of the Explorer to millennials have outpaced any other vehicle in Ford’s lineup.
Still, Ford needs to beef up sales of the Escape. The vehicle is too important to the company to allow sales to wither away.