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Ford turns tables on Toyota in the US

Going Ford: The Ford Fusion is hitting the mark with buyers as rivals hit the skids.

Financially sound Ford makes gains at the expense of troubled rivals GM and Chrysler

General News logo4 May 2009

AMERICAN buyers appear to have turned to Ford in April – and to more fuel-efficient vehicles – in preference to its financially crippled rivals General Motors and Chrysler.

While the overall market was down a further 34.3 per cent compared to the same month last year, Ford not only performed comparatively better, but it also moved back ahead of Toyota as the number two brand in the US for the first time in many months.

Ford’s sales result was underpinned by its revised 2010 Fusion mid-size sedan, which was released in March and recorded a record monthly sales total of 18,321.

Although Ford group sales were 31.6 per cent down on April 2008, it increased its market share for the sixth time in seven months, capturing 15.8 per cent to trail only GM (20.9 per cent).

Toyota sales were down 41.9 per cent and its market share dropped to third place with a 15.4 per cent share, down from 17.4 per cent a year ago.

Chrysler’s market share has dropped to just 9.4 per cent compared with 11.8 per cent a year ago, its sales tumbling 48.1 per cent in April ahead of last week’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement.

 center imageLeft: Toyota Camry. Below: Honda Accord EX-L.

Despite this, Chrysler president Jim Press described the April result as “well above expectations”.

Among the other major brands, Subaru was the best-performed in April, dropping only 6.7 per cent for the month, while Hyundai, which has been one of the strongest brands globally all year, fared not as well in April with sales down 14.1 per cent, but the Korean brand still increased its market share to 4.1 per cent.

Suzuki (down 73.7 per cent) and Mitsubishi (down 55.9 per cent) were the hardest-hit of the major brands.

Ford analyst George Pipas believes that several economic indicators suggest the sales slide may be near or at the bottom of the slide, and that “the economy's contraction is beginning to subside”.

“Our view is that, not withstanding the travails that relate to GM and Chrysler, the economy is poised to start expanding and that we could well see a modest recovery in the second half of the year,” Mr Pipas told journalists.

Ford believes that the Fusion, which was launched in 2005, has broken into the top ranks of the Camry/Accord-dominated mid-size market in the US, but it still accounts for only a small proportion of Ford’s 134,401 sales for the month.

More than 40 per cent of Fusions sold in April – the updated model’s first full month on sale – were the new hybrid model, which has a fuel consumption figure of around 7.0L/100km.

GM's vice-president for North American sales and marketing, Mark LaNeve, said the company continued “to suffer with the brands that are for sale or being wound down”.

“We also had to fight off erroneous rumours that we were selling off the Buick brand,” said Mr LaNeve, who also believes the market has stabilised.

Meanwhile, the Japanese market continues to be hammered, recording sales of just 166,365 vehicles in April – down 28.6 on the same month last year.

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