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Ford takes the sales fight up to GM in US

Top performer: Sales of Ford’s mid-sized Fusion jumped 82 per cent in February, making it Ford’s best-selling passenger car and helping to drive the Blue Oval to the top of the US sales charts.

Blue Oval February sales soar 43 per cent as Ford leaps to US leadership contention

General News logo4 Mar 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

FORD, the only top-four player in the US auto industry not to have suffered the indignity of either chapter 11 bankruptcy or damaging safety recalls in recent times, finished line-ball with long-time market leader General Motors in the sales race last month.

Depending on whether you still count Volvo as a Ford brand or not – China's Zhejiang Geely Holdings Group is set to take control of the Swedish brand when the final paperwork is exchanged about May – Ford either beat GM’s sales tally, 142,644 sales to 138,849, or came perilously close to knocking it over, with 137,644 vehicles sold under the traditional home-grown Ford, Lincoln and Mercury badges.

Either way, it was a home run for the Blue Oval team, with February sales jumping a massive 43 per cent over the same month last year – one of the biggest such increases by a ‘Big Three’ player in history.

Powering along on all cylinders thanks to hugely popular winners such as the Fusion, Taurus, Mustang and Focus, squeaky-clean Ford is again threatening to end the long-term dominance of the recovering but still wobbly GM in North America while making life difficult for the battered leadership aspirant Toyota.

Ford estimates its February US market share at 17 per cent – three percentage points better than last year – while its year-to-date sales growth sits at a more-than-handy 34 per cent. However, it still trails GM’s two-month tally by 30,000 units, thanks to GM’s superior January performance.

The big Ford sales gain helped to boost US February sales by 13 per cent, to 780,463 vehicles.

80 center imageLeft: Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Equinox.

While GM executives would have had collective furrowed brows over the sales performance of its cross-town rival, they would have been buoyed by GM’s own improved volume which, at a 12 per cent increase, almost matched the overall market growth.

Core brand Chevrolet continued its recovery with a 32 per cent improvement in volume for the month, led by 121 per cent growth in sales of its Equinox SUV.

Even Chrysler managed to stem its giddy sales slide, finishing line ball with last year’s February tally, at 84,449 units.

But Toyota, beset with recall issues that temporarily stripped its showrooms of stock and tarnished its image, slipped to third place as sales of its Toyota, Scion and Lexus branded cars, SUVs and pick-ups fell to 100,027 last month.

However, the Toyota sales discomfort was not as bad as feared, with some pundits predicting a 12 per cent hammering before the figures arrived.

Only Mitsubishi and Suzuki joined Toyota in the dunces’ corner, with their sales down 10 per cent and 61 per cent respectively. Suzuki has all but folded its tent and gone home from the US, selling just 1375 units across the 50 states last month.

By contrast, fellow Japanese companies Nissan and Subaru are well and truly taking up any slack, with Nissan/Infiniti sales growing 29 per cent to 70,189 units for the month, and Subaru’s jumping 38 per cent to 18,098 vehicles as its Outback and Legacy continue their upward drive.

For the first time in more than a year, global growth company Hyundai failed to outpace the US market growth, its sales volume climbing a mere 11 per cent on the corresponding month in 2009, to 34,004 units.

It was, however, Hyundai’s 14th consecutive month of year-on-year growth – something rival companies can only dream about.

The other company that has designs on world leadership, Volkswagen, was the third fastest growing mainstream manufacturer in the US behind Ford and Subaru in February, up 33 per cent to 24,427 units.

Honda matched the market growth, with Honda/Acura sales up 13 per cent to 80,671 units – fewer than 4000 units shy of fourth-placed Chrysler.

Ford’s US vice-president of sales and service Ken Czubay said he expected the company’s five-month winning streak to continue, with more new products and fuel-efficient powertrains on the way this year.

“Our goal is to provide our customers with industry-leading fuel economy and performance – and more reasons to shop Ford and buy Ford,” he said.

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