Tue, Dec 31, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Ford brand widens US sales lead over Toyota

Bloomberg

Ford Motor Co Fusion and F-150 vehicles are displayed in Southfield, Michigan, on Dec. 20.

Photo: Bloomberg

Ford Motor Co said US sales for its main brand will surpass 2.4 million vehicles this year, as record demand for its Fusion sedan and hybrid models helps extend a lead over Toyota Motor Corp’s namesake line.

The Ford marque entered this month ahead of Toyota by 388,825 cars and light trucks, heading for its fourth straight year as the top-selling US auto brand. In last year’s full-year tally, the margin was 322,521.

The brand title reflects chief executive officer Alan Mulally’s strategy that the second-largest US automaker would flourish by narrowing its focus. He sold off the Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo luxury lines, shuttered Mercury and pushed the namesake brand to complement its strengths in pickups and sport-utility vehicles with more competitive cars.

“We are not overly reliant on any one segment,” John Felice, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company’s vice president of US marketing, sales and service, said in a statement yesterday. “With 16 launches next year, we’re looking to keep our sales momentum going.”

Demand for Fusions and hybrids such as the C-Max will boost Ford-brand sales to retail buyers to the highest since 2000, the automaker said.

The Toyota division is on pace to beat the Ford brand this year in light-vehicle retail sales, which exclude fleet customers such as rental companies, Bill Fay, group vice president for US Toyota sales, said in a Dec. 5 interview. Toyota-brand sales include Scion vehicles.

“That’s been a result of the recovery of the brand and the division the last couple years,” Fay said. “It’s not one of our stated goals. We’re more focused on trying to sell our plan, satisfy our customers and support the dealers’ business model.”

Ford’s Fusion, redesigned last year with styling evocative of an Aston Martin, will exceed 290,000 sales this year, the company said in its statement. The model last month passed its previous annual sales record, set in 2011. Deliveries rose 22 percent through last month, outpacing gains of 1.3 percent for Toyota’s Camry and 11 percent for Honda Motor Co’s Accord.

Ford said its hybrid sales will top 80,000 this year, almost triple the total of last year. By May, the automaker had beaten its previous annual best, achieved three years ago.

Keeping the hybrid gains going will be a challenge next year, as C-Max sales momentum slowed after Ford restated its fuel efficiency rating in August.

The Ford brand also faces a test with the redesign of the F-150 pickup, the company’s most profitable model line. IHS Automotive has estimated that Ford’s large-pickup production will fall 8.5 percent next year as the company’s truck plants change over to the updated pickup.

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