Ford Posts 13% Sales Gain in January

Ford F-150 pickup truck
Ford F-150 pickup truck

Ford Motor (F) said sales of its cars and trucks rose 13.3% in January on improved demand by consumers, bucking a trend a year ago when sales to fleet customers largely drove the increase.

Ford said overall sales rose among its truck and utility vehicle segments, while passenger cars held steady. For the month, the automaker sold 127,317 units, up 13.3% compared to a year ago. Retail sales, which exclude those to rental fleets and commercial customers, climbed 27% versus January 2010, the largest increase in such sales in January in more than a decade, Ford said.

"We begin 2011 in a strong position -- ready to meet the needs of a wide range of customers with a full portfolio of high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles," Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. sales at the Dearborn, Mich.-based company, said in a statement.

Top Three: Focus, Fusion and Fiesta

Passenger cars led the increase in retail sales, Ford said, with demand climbing 36%. Overall sales of passenger cars within the company's namesake Ford brand, including those to commercial customers, rose 10%, although demand for Taurus sedans and Mustang sports cars dropped 23% and 33%, respectively.

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Sales of the recently introduced Fiesta subcompact totaled 4,270 units for the month, making it the Ford brand's third most popular passenger car for the month, behind the Focus compact and Fusion midsize models.

"Higher gasoline prices are factoring into vehicle purchase decisions," Czubay said. Still, that didn't hamper truck sales, which rose 24%, or those of utility vehicle, which gained 22%. Ford's popular line of F-Series pickup trucks (pictured) recorded a 30% increase in sales, while the Transit Connect compact delivery van saw its sales rise 78.5%. Sales of the redesigned Ford Explorer sports-utility vehicle, which began selling in December, rose 73%.

The Ford brand led the sales gain among the company's divisions, advancing 21.6% for the month, for a total 121,511 vehicles. Sales at Lincoln, however, slipped by 21% to 5,558 units, as demand for the division's models plunged by as much 53%.

The sales drop comes as Ford is seeking to revive Lincoln. As part of that effort, Ford ceased production of Mercury vehicles last year to devote more resources to Lincoln. With the Mercury brand now history, sales of Mercury vehicles plunged nearly 96% last month to just 248 units, all of them Grand Marquis sedans.

Ford and General Motors (GM) were among the first automakers to report monthly sales results Tuesday. GM said its sales rose 22%, thanks largely to a big increase in retail sales. Chrysler Group, Toyota Motor (TM) and Honda Motor (HMC) are expected to release January data later in the day.