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Ford sees more gains in U.S. market share in March

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Ford sees more gains in U.S. market share in March

March 25, 2010 - 1:01 pm ET

DETROIT (Reuters) -- Ford Motor Co. expects to take a larger share of the U.S. market in March, as it continues to attract non-Ford owners to its brands, Ford's U.S. sales chief said today.

The U.S. auto industry overall is expected to have a stronger month in March than many expected at the end of February, but Ford's results should outpace the industry, Ken Czubay said in an interview.

"We are having a pretty good month in March and we are finding the industry is having a good month, but we ought to outpace the industry again," he said.

Czubay said the seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate for the industry in March will be "surprisingly good" compared with what might have been expected at the end of February.

In early March, Ford said consumer confidence seemed to have reached a plateau.

Annualized U.S. auto sales ran at a 10.8 million vehicles in January and at about 10.4 million in February. Most industry forecasters expect sales of about 11.5 million vehicles in 2010.

Rising expectations

But last Friday, auto industry tracking service Edmunds said U.S. sales in March were running at an annualized rate of 13.2 million vehicles.

Ford has forecast U.S. auto industry sales in the 11.5 million to 12.5 million range for the year, including medium and heavy duty trucks.

Czubay said March results were being driven by increased marketing across the industry, the start of the spring selling season and, he hoped, the beginning of an increase in business due to an economic recovery.

"I think we have all been a little disappointed that the recovery hasn't taken hold of our business a little bit more strongly -- January and February for example -- so I am hoping the recovery is starting to take hold so we can raise the base water level of business," Czubay said.

If March comes out as expected, Ford will have gained U.S. market share in 17 of the last 18 months. Last year, Ford increased its U.S. market share for the first time since 1995.

Czubay said a focus on fuel economy, safety, technology and quality improvements has helped drive the increase in sales to new customers over the past 18 months.

Conquests rising

Among its three main brands, the number of customers who traded in non-Ford vehicles rose 18 percent from 2005 through 2009 for Ford, 61 percent for Lincoln and 12 percent for Mercury.

For example, the growth rate of sales to customers who traded in non-Ford brands was nearly 12 percent for the Taurus between 2005 and 2009, single digits for the Mustang and 6 percent for the F-Series pickup.

"I think we are going to see a good March. We are going to have a pretty darn good March," Czubay said. "I actually think April is going to be pretty good also. We are planning to keep full support for our dealers."

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