As difficult as the past few years have been for the U.S. auto industry, automakers and analysts alike continue to hope for a better future. 2010 has been a vast improvement over 2009, with sales up 11 percent. Even better, the last three months have seen sales rise above an annualized rate of 12 million cars and trucks, and analysts see 2011 sales approaching 13 million units.

Nearly all automakers have benefited from customers' renewed faith in the economy, but few have fared as well as Ford. The Blue Oval has seen sales rise by 21 percent so far in 2010, and the Dearborn, MI-based automaker appears destined to reclaim its spot as the number two automaker in the States. Ford analyst George Pipas points out to The Detroit News that the automaker has seen two consecutive years of market share increase for the first time since 1993, going from 14.2 percent in 2008 to an expected 16.8 percent for 2010. At the same time, Toyota has seen its share shrink to 15.2 percent due in part to the recall of 6.75 million vehicles in the U.S. alone and over 10 million cars and trucks globally. Should sales trends continue, Ford will overtake Toyota in sales for the first time since the Japanese automaker wrestled away the number two spot back in 2007. General Motors remains at the top of the U.S. sales food chain, stabilizing its market share at 19.3 percent despite shedding four brands during bankruptcy.

Ford had a fantastic 2010, and with the 2011 Explorer and 2012 Focus on their way to showrooms and continued momentum from cars like the Mustang, we're thinking 2011 will be a winner as well. Meanwhile, Toyota will need some fresh product in its showrooms if it hopes to re-engage Ford and take back its place in line. And it will be tougher than ever to steal sales from GM or Chrysler, as both companies have stabilized market share and have new product for 2011.

[Source: The Detroit News | Image: Paul Sakuma/AP]

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