In Dearborn, Mich., there were smiles of smug satisfaction. In Warren, Mich., there were cries of cold consternation.
I'm talking about the March sales report.
After two months, Chevrolet had led Ford by 328 sales, and the speculators began speculating that maybe this will be the year Chevy outsells its Dearborn rival for the first time since 1986.
Then came March and the wipeout. Ford crushed Chevy by 40,000 sales, hence the smug smiles in Dearborn.
The race isn't over, but Chevy must gain significant ground in the next few months. Otherwise, 2002 will be another in a long string of Ford sales victories.
Old-timers remember classic Chev-rolet-Ford battles in the days when only cars counted in the race for the top. In 1954, the winner wasn't decided until the final day's results were in. Ford and Chevy each delivered more than 1.4 million cars, and Chevy won by 17,013 sales.
Every Chevrolet and Ford salesman had a couple of new demos in December 1954, and there are tales that dealers received lists of engine numbers from the factories with the order: "Register these now. We'll build the cars later."
Over the years, Automotive News has questioned Ford and Chevrolet officials about that. The queries have drawn pained expressions and the disclaimer "Oh, we would NEVER do anything like that."
The two brands have had other notable battles for car sales supremacy. Chevrolet won by 2,107 cars in 1937 and by 2,779 in 1946.
Chevrolet used to own the car sales competition. From 1936 through 1987, it beat Ford 45 out of 48 years (excluding World War II).
Ford's only car sales victories were in 1957, when Ford models were redesigned and Chevrolet's cars were not, and in 1959 and 1970, when General Motors plants were shut down by long strikes.
Chevrolet would dearly love to reclaim a sales crown from Ford - cars, trucks or cars and trucks. It
hasn't beaten Ford in 10 years. But a couple of more months like March - and forget it, Chevy.