Ford, GM Both Claim to Have Top-Selling Brand in Nation

From Reuters

In a feud that recalls the glory days when Detroit’s top carmakers dominated the U.S. market, Ford Motor Co and General Motors Corp. sparred Sunday over bragging rights to the top-selling auto brand for 2005.

Although Ford and GM lost market share to Asian rivals last year and were forced into plant closures and wide-ranging cost cutting, the claim to the top-selling U.S. brand remains an important point of pride for both companies.

The last time GM’s Chevrolet division eclipsed Ford as the top-selling U.S. brand was in 1986, when the pair commanded almost 60% of the U.S. market. As of last year, that combined share had sunk to about 45%.

GM has been running an advertising campaign since last month that trumpets Chevrolet as America’s top-selling brand.


But executives of Ford told a group of its dealers gathered at an industry conference in Orlando, Fla., Sunday that final vehicle registration numbers for 2005 showed that Ford had narrowly edged past Chevrolet.

Ford plans to send a letter to GM this week challenging the Chevrolet marketing claim, a company representative said.

Ford spokeswoman Sara Tatchio said the company’s Sunday announcement, based on data from market research firm R.L. Polk & Co., was greeted by applause from its dealers.

“It’s really good news for our dealers,” she said. “They’re out on the front lines and it’s a matter of pride.”


A Polk representative could not be reached for comment.

Ford said updated Polk data showed 2.63 million registered sales of its cars, compared with 2.625 million for Chevrolet.

Sales data released by the automakers last month showed Chevrolet sold 2,669,932 vehicles, down 3%, and Ford sold 2,648,814, down almost 5%.

GM, which has cited Polk data in its Chevy ads, dismissed the controversy.


Mark LaNeve, GM’s sales and marketing chief, said the company would stick to its marketing.

“We’re 100% [certain] that our numbers are correct.... I don’t know what numbers they’re looking at,” he told reporters after meeting with a group of GM dealers.