DETROIT -- Paced by a strong increase in sales of the Ford Focus compact, Ford Motor Co.'s sales increased 7 percent to 136,294 in January.
The Focus moved past the Fusion mid-sized sedan to become the Ford brand's third-best selling vehicle in January, with sales of 14,400, up 60 percent from a year earlier, when the model was new in the market and stocks were still low.
Sales of the best-selling F-series pickup rose 8 percent to 38,493. Sales of the Escape small SUV rose 24 percent, to 17,259, to rank second among the automakers' nameplates.
Ken Czubay, Ford's U.S. vice president of marketing, sales and service, said January was the best sales month for the Focus since January 2003. Focus sales were particularly strong in California, where retail sales increased 86 percent, he said.
Erich Merkle, Ford's sales analyst, said, "We're seeing a strong renewal of dealer attention on the Focus" in January.
Jesse Toprak, analyst for TrueCar Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif., said, "The Focus had some heavy retail advertising and incentives" during January. "It seemed like Ford was being aggressive at the right time due to rising gas prices," he said.
Slowly rising gasoline prices did not appear to benefit the subcompact Fiesta, which dropped 18 percent for the month to 3,502 units.
Said Merkle: "The two vehicles are very close together in terms of size, price and appointments. At this point, Focus is the newer vehicle."
The Escape's sales gain came despite the small SUV's being in sell-down mode with the replacement 2013 model arriving sometime in the second quarter.
Said analyst Toprak: "Escape does have some of the highest incentives in the category. Right now it's a great value for consumers who are looking for a small SUV and don't care so much about having a new one."
Ford-brand sales rose 8 percent to 131,173. Lincoln brand sales dropped 8 percent to 5,121. Topping the Lincoln sales chart was the MKZ sedan with 1,662 units, up 6 percent, and the MKX crossover, with 1,650, up 7 percent. Those numbers were offset by slower sales of the MKT and an 84 percent drop, to 140, in sales of the Town Car, which has gone out of production.