Riding on a wave of accolades, Ford Motor (F) reported Tuesday that its vehicle sales rose 43% last month and that the company's share of the U.S. market rose 3 percentage points to 17%, compared to the same period a year ago. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker, the recipient of two industry awards for its 2010 Fusion midsized sedan, said sales rose 22% when compared to the previous month.

The strong sales surge allowed Ford to surpass General Motors as the largest supplier of cars and trucks to the U.S. market -- if just for the month and only incrementally, The New York Times reported. Ford outsold GM by 334 vehicles, roughly the number of sales its Mercury brand sells each day, the Times said.

"The strength of our new products and Ford's leadership in quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value are resonating with customers," said Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president for U.S. sales. Saying, "We expect our progress to continue," he added that the company plans to build on its success by introducing new products and more fuel-efficient engine systems later this year.

Ford said sales rose across the board: Passenger cars, with a 54% increase, gained the most. Utility vehicles followed with 39% rise, while truck sales rose 36%. By brand, the company said its namesake Ford brand gained 46% compared to a year ago, while Mercury and Lincoln rose 24% and 19%, respectively. Year to date, Ford said, total sales reached 250,050, up 34% compared to a year ago.

The company also said it plans to produce nearly 600,000 vehicles in the second quarter, a 32% increase over a year ago. Estimated production for the first quarter, at 570,000, remained unchanged from prior forecasts, Ford said.

Sales of the Fusion rose 116% compared to year-ago figures, Ford said, setting a new February record. Sales of the Taurus full-size sedan, a new version of which was introduced last August, rose 93% compared to a year ago, while the F-Series truck line recorded a 39% increase in sales.

Sales Also Rose at GM, Subaru

Ford wasn't the only automaker to record sales increases in February, which many analysts believe came at the expense of Toyota Motor (TM), which is suffering sales declines due to the controversy over its recalls of millions of cars for unintended acceleration and other problems. Toyota will announce sales figures later in the day.

Earlier Tuesday, GM preempted Ford by announcing that its sales rose 11.5% compared to a year ago. Excluding Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab, the Detroit-based automaker reported total sales rose 32% compared to February 2009. GM said it sold 138,849 cars last month on "continued strong" sales growth of large crossover vehicles and passenger cars.

At the retail level, sales at GM's remaining four "core" brands -- Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac -- rose 7% last month, thanks to strong consumer demand for Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX crossover vehicles.

Meanwhile, sales of large crossovers also helped Japan's Subaru, which said February sales jumped 38% to 18,098 led by Outback and Legacy models. Both vehicles were redesigned for 2010. Sales of Subaru's smaller Impreza sedan and Forester SUV were flat.

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