Although Ford still holds the year-to-date sales lead by a slim margin, its forecast of lower fourth-quarter production might make it possible for Toyota to claim the title for all of 2003.
According to data from Toyota's financial results, it sold 1,576,000 vehicles worldwide in the third quarter while Ford sold 1,410,000. Toyota's sales included its Hino and Daihatsu units; Ford's sales included its foreign luxury brands -- Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.
For the first nine months of 2003, Ford still ranks as the world's second-largest automaker with a lead of about 26,000 vehicles, with 4,844,000 sold compared with Toyota's 4,818,000. Both are well behind General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, which sold 6.4 million vehicles in the same period.
The third quarter is typically the weakest for U.S. automakers, as they shut down factories for vacations and new-model changeovers. But Ford's third-quarter global sales were down 15%, because of sluggish sales in Europe, the elimination of slow-selling models in the United States and the lack of new products -- all problems Toyota has not had.
Through October, Toyota was the top-selling passenger car brand in the United States, with sales up 5.4%. The Ford brand, which has held the title for many years, was down 7.6% over the same period.