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Ford has already upped the production run of the new Ranger due to its popularity. It made a difference in sales during the first quarter.

Ford Motor Co saw sales decline by 1.6% in the first quarter.

But the drop was not as large as those experienced by rivals General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and was concentrated in the passenger car segment, which are continuing to fade in consumer interest.

“As we transition out of passenger cars we expect to see some volatility,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of sales, service and marketing. “I’m optimistic the year will strengthen.”

“We had a big fleet quarter overall. That will smooth out,” he said, acknowledging sales to rental fleet boosted the company’s sales totals. However, the company’s sales to government and commercial fleets also increased. “We’re optimistic we’re going to have gains in commercial and government fleets,” he said.

(Ford China 2.0: Automaker kicks off second act in world’s largest market. Click Here for the story.)

Ford truck and van sales were up 4.1% for the first quarter versus a year ago and Ford-brand SUV sales –up 3.5% – set a Q1 record. Lincoln grew 11.2%.

The F-Series increased its leadership position: F-150 and Super Duty combined sales outstripped the nearest competitor by 94,585 trucks – which is 15,939 higher than this point last year, LaNeve said. “Our market share was really stable,” he said, noting Ford still maintained 40% of the full-size truck market despite the strength of the Ram pickups.

F-Series also ended the quarter with an average transaction price of $47,454 as customers continue to choose high series and the latest technologies.

The return of the Ranger midsized pick-up truck boosted Ford’s truck franchise as the company sold 9,421 Rangers. Combined with F-Series, this reflects Ford’s best first quarter of pickup sales in 15 years. “There are lot of Ranger loyalists,” he said.

(Click Here to see more about how U.S. auto sales fared in March.)

Ford-brand SUVs also set first-quarter sales record, increasing 3.5% versus last year, representing a new first-quarter record totaling 193,753 vehicles. This is driven by robust Expedition performance –up 61.9% with 21,773 Expeditions sold. Combined Ford and Lincoln SUV sales are up 5%.

Lincoln booked its best start to a year in more than a decade: Lincoln delivers an 11.2% gain in the first quarter, thanks to strong growth across its SUV line-up, LaNeve said.

“First quarter 2019 sales were solid for Ford. Our winning portfolio continues to deliver. F-Series expanded our leadership position while others slugged it out for second place. We have a close connection with our customers, allowing us to deliver what they need in their trucks. It can also be seen in our record sales of Ford SUVs as well as Lincoln’s significant growth,” LaNeve said.

(To see more about the launch of the new Ford Escape, Click Here.)

Overall, Industry-wide sales dropped 5% in March but Emily Kolinski Morris, Ford’s chief economist said Ford still expected to sales of new vehicles to improve later in the year.

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