DETROIT — Sales of Ford's Bronco II utility vehicle, hit last week by a widely publicized report from a consumer group charging that it is unsafe to drive, fell 12.4% in mid-May, Ford reported Wednesday.
Ford said that the decline was not related to Consumer Reports magazine's May 17 announcement that in the June issue it planned to advise readers not to buy the Bronco II. The magazine said the vehicle had performed poorly in a test of its stability during accident-avoidance maneuvers and that it could be prone to rolling over during sudden swerves.
Ford officials said the magazine's announcement came too late in the 10-day selling period to have much of an impact. So far this year, Bronco II sales have dropped 9.3%, and Ford officials have said it was partly because production of the current model is scheduled to be phased out.
Still, the Bronco II decline in mid-May came as Ford reported that overall truck sales rose 5.8%. Industrywide, domestic auto makers reported increases of 1.3% in truck sales and 3.5% in car sales during mid-May; Ford said it posted a 2.8% gain in car sales.
No Recall of Bronco Urged
So far, the Bronco II has yet to see the devastating sales losses that hit the Suzuki Samurai last year after Consumer Reports said that vehicle was unsafe and prone to roll over. At the time, the magazine called for a permanent recall of the Samurai, asked Suzuki to reimburse those who had bought them and said the company should stop selling them. The federal government later denied two consumer groups' petitions for an investigation of the Samurai, noting that many of those in roll-over accidents were young, inexperienced drivers and that alcohol use was was evident in 50% of the accidents. The publicity surrounding the Consumer Reports attack on the Samurai led to a stunning drop in sales from which Samurai has yet to recover.
With the Bronco II, however, Consumer Reports did not urge a recall; the magazine's publishers said they found that the Samurai was much more dangerous to drive than the Bronco II.
Even with the mid-May decline, industry analysts said they don't believe that Bronco II sales will be damaged as severely as the Samurai's.
"I don't think sales are going to be adversely affected," said Chris Cedergren, automotive analyst with J. D. Power & Associates, an Agoura Hills automotive market research firm. "Ford has such a strong image in the marketplace that it is going to take a lot of negative things to impact that image."
Another factor that could aid Ford is that production of the current Bronco II models is scheduled to end within the next year. A redesigned model slated for introduction in 1990 will be sold both by Ford and Mazda dealers.
Times researcher Leslie Eringaard contributed to this article.
Percentage changes in auto sales for the second 10 daysof May are based on daily rates rather than total sales volume. There were nine selling days in the current period and nine in the year-ago period.
May % 10-Day 1989 change GM 07,054 +2.6 Ford 68,543 +2.8 Chrysler 30,399 +0.2 Honda U.S. 10,178 +26.5 Mitsubishi U.S.* 854 ---- Nissan U.S. 1,312 -53.6 Toyota U.S. 4,572 +153.3 MazdaU.S. 985 --0.7 TOTAL 223,897 +3.5