Well, here's one recipe for success in the U.S. auto business: Introduce a rapid-fire sequence of new and thoroughly revised vehicles with best-in-class fuel efficiency, then quickly roll out a widely-acclaimed voice-activated infotainment system across all your lines.
Oh, yeah, and ... don't take government bailout money.
2010 Ford Fusion HybridEnlarge Photo
2010 Lincoln MKS with EcoBoostEnlarge Photo
ford ecoboost range 040Enlarge Photo
2011 Ford FiestaEnlarge Photo
2012 Ford Focus, at 2010 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
Ford sales up 43 percent
Which is a long way of saying that Ford's February sales put the Dearborn automaker solidly in first place among automakers, squeaking past General Motors by 471 units and solidly trouncing the beleaguered Toyota.
Ford's U.S. sales rose 43 percent against this month last year, while GM's rose just 12 percent and Toyota's fell 9 percent, due in part to several models having been pulled off sale until they could be fixed to resolve accelerator design problems that led to a massive recall.
The nature of Ford's achievement is illustrated by the last time its monthly sales beat GM, in July 1998--when GM production had been shut down by a United Auto Workers strike.
It's all about product
Ford [NYSE:F] is riding a resurgence of well-reviewed products, including its 2010 Fusion and Fusion Hybrid midsize sedans.
Ford is swiftly launching more fuel efficient and smaller engines--with direct injection and turbocharging--under the EcoBoost label, fitting them first to the 2010 Lincoln MKS sedan and MKT crossover and to the Ford Flex crossover and Taurus SHO performance sedan.
Its revamped 2011 Edge crossover will offer a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four, and it has already shown its subcompact 2011 Fiesta and compact 2012 Focus--both offered as four-door sedans and five-door hatchbacks--to great acclaim.
No government dollars
Then there's the fact that unlike GM and Chrysler, Ford did not go through bankruptcy and receive billions of dollars of government loans to enable it to survive and restructure.
Instead, in 2006, then-new CEO Alan Mulally took out "the world's largest home equity loan"--$23 billion--to pay for a total overhaul of the company's product lines and technology. The results of that investment are now showing up in showrooms. And they're paying off.
Place your bets now...
GM has been first in U.S. annual sales for 78 consecutive years, though it lost its global sales crown to Toyota in 2008.
But after bankruptcy, shedding four brands, and several management shakeups, it sells only slightly more than half the units it did three years ago. Whether its sales slump will be permanent or it can fight its way back to dominance seems a very open question, this month.
Can Ford keep up the pace? Could it even beat GM for the year? We're placing our bets here at High Gear Media office pool for year-end sales results.
But tell us what you think in the Comments, below.
[Automotive News (subscription required)]