A sales surprise: Ford's on top in 1st quarter

Ford Focus sales are up 23 percent.
This is not what you would call a good year for Ford Motor Co. First-quarter sales stumbled 8.9 percent compared with 2007; each of its three domestic brands lost sales; market share slipped to 15.2 percent, from 15.4 percent last year.

But the company has something to brag about: Ford is the best-selling brand in the United States, outpacing Chevrolet and Toyota in the first three months of the year.

It was close. Ford beat Chevy by 4,402 sales and Toyota by 4,517. In 2007, Ford was third for the quarter and for the full year, trailing both Chevy and Toyota by wide margins.

Ford division moved to the top by having a less-awful month than Chevrolet in March. Ford sales were down 13.1 percent for the month, while Chevrolet fell off the cliff with a decline of 22.8 percent. Only Hummer, Buick and Lincoln lost more than Chevy.

Strangely, Ford led for the quarter without help from a hot new product. A 23.2 percent increase in the sales of the Ford Focus and a 47.2 percent bump in deliveries of the Edge crossover did the trick. Just about every other Ford division nameplate was down for the quarter.

Ford division was the best-seller from 1987 to 2004. Chevy broke that string in 2005, Ford was on top in 2006, and Chevy won in 2007.

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