In 2007, the auto industry's last good year before the recession, General Motors outsold Ford Motor Co. in the United States by more than 105,000 units a month on average.
In the past 12 months, the gap has narrowed to fewer than 25,000. In September, Ford nearly pulled off what would have been only the third monthly upset of GM in 15 years, falling short by 2,743 units, or less than half a day's worth of Ford sales.
Ford's upward momentum is pressuring GM to play more defense as it seeks to maintain its long-held spot as the nation's sales leader. And it is refueling the age-old, crosstown rivalry that had cooled somewhat during the downturn.
GM is raising incentives on its lucrative, newly redesigned pickups and other vehicles this month after sales fell 11 percent in September.
"The first three weeks of September, there was no traffic," said Brad Lillie, general manager of Gregg Young Chevrolet in Omaha, Neb. "They just weren't very competitive, especially on trucks."
Ford gained half a point of market share through three quarters of 2013, more than any other automaker, while GM's share slipped another tenth of a point. The crosstown rivals are now separated by just 2 points of U.S. share, whereas the gap was nearly 8 points in 2007.
Three nameplates -- the F series, Fusion and Escape -- are largely responsible for Ford's rising share. They alone accounted for more than 1 million of the company's 1.9 million sales through three quarters of 2013.
In particular, the Fusion's sudden transformation from mid-sized also-ran to a legitimate Toyota Camry challenger highlights how Ford has succeeded. Meanwhile, GM is hurrying a refresh of the Chevrolet Malibu in response to tanking sales of that sedan.
"Ford has taken a few more risks trying to be more progressive in terms of style and it's paid off," said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Ford just seems to have the right product in those key growth segments right now, and they are going to continue to close the gap."