Ford Sales Surge in December

Ford Motor (F) reported Tuesday that sales of its vehicles rose 33% in December compared to a year ago, capping a year that otherwise saw the car maker sell 15% fewer cars than it had in 2008. For the month the automaker reported sales increases for each of its brands -- Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo -- and gained about 1% market share for the year, to bring the Dearborn, Mich.-based company's portion of the U.S. market to about 15%.The increase is the first full-year market-share gain Ford has seen since 1995, when its Ford Taurus mid-sized car was among the most popular choices among consumers. Ford also said that with December's increase it has gained market share in 14 of the past 15 months.

"Ford's plan is working," said Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. marketing sales and service. "Customer consideration continues to grow for our high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles." The company said consumers are increasingly considering its products, with those intending to buy a Ford vehicle increasing more than 30%, according to its own data.

Across all its domestic lines, December sales rose a third to 179,017, while full-year sales totaled 1.62 million, down 15%. Among individual models, Ford said sales of its Fusion mid-sized sedan rose 83%, setting a new record for December. Full-year sales of the Fusion, named by Motor Trend magazine as its 2010 Car of the Year, rose 22.4% to a total 147,569 units.

The company's freshened Taurus sedan, which Ford introduced in August, also picked up sales, with 7,256 vehicles sold last month, a gain of nearly 110%. For the year, however, Taurus sales fell 13.4%. Sales of Mustang, Ford's retro pony car, rose 62%, while sales of the Focus compact sedan rose 22%.

Ford said its F-Series truck had their best sales month since March 2008, with 48,209 units moving off dealers' lots, a 15.9% increase. As with the Taurus, however, annual sales of the truck line, perennially the most popular vehicles sold in the U.S., were off, tumbling nearly 20% compared to 2008.

December sales of hybrid vehicles totaled 2,843, up 147% compared to a year ago. Ford's hybrid models include the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans along with the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner small SUVs. For the full year, Ford recorded 33,502 hybrid sales, it said.

Sales at Ford's Volvo luxury-car unit rose 13.8% in December, but fell 16% for the year, it said. Last month, Ford announced it had reached a tentative agreement to sell the Swedish make to China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group. Details of the deal are still being hammered out.

Analysts say Ford has picked up sales in part because it was the only U.S. car maker not to take bailout money under the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. General Motors' decision to cut four of its brands is also believed to have given Ford sales a boost.
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