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Strong new vehicles behind Ford success

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Strong new vehicles behind Ford success

It's 1st time firm topped GM since '98



Don't mistake Ford's stunning 43.4% sales increase in February for a short-term windfall fueled by Toyota's multiple recalls.

While Ford almost certainly gained a few sales at Toyota's expense, February's triumph, with the company topping General Motors in monthly U.S. sales for the first time since 1998, was building for months before Toyota stalled.

"Ford is really on a roll," said Aaron Bragman, research analyst with IHS Global Insight. "This is the payoff to years of investment and restructuring. Ford is only going to get stronger this year as more strong new vehicles arrive."

Independent research suggests that Honda and Hyundai are the primary beneficiaries of Toyota's woes. Even if Ford had picked up every one of the 9,556 sales Toyota shed from February 2009, the Dearborn automaker would still have more than 32,000 new Ford, Lincoln and Mercury owners to brag about.

Ford's sales gain was more than three times as strong as the industry's 13.3% growth. There's little doubt that some of Ford's gain is GM's loss. As GM refocuses on four core brands and regroups after shuttering or selling Saab, Saturn and Pontiac, Ford outsold GM by 429 vehicles. The previous two times -- 1998 and 1970 -- that Ford topped monthly sales, GM was slowed by strikes.

Sales for every Ford-brand vehicle but the aging Crown Victoria increased vs. February 2009. The Fusion midsize sedan more than doubled its sales from '09. While Ford enjoyed broad success, February gave Toyota more cause for concern. Despite that, Toyota's 8.7% sales decrease was less than many analysts expected.

The biggest surprise in February is Chrysler's 0.5% gain. The fact that Chrysler overcame a drumbeat of criticism and a lack of new models should be cause for celebration in Auburn Hills. Even much-maligned models like the Chrysler Sebring and Jeep Compass more than doubled their sales vs. a year ago.



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