Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Big Three Boost US Market Share

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Big Three Boost US Market Share

Article excerpt

A BIG THREE carmaker can claim victory in one of the toughest battles of the year. But the latest numbers show 1992 had little for anyone in the auto industry to cheer about.

Ford Motor Company did win the right to brag about making the best-selling passenger car in the country - the first time in four years a domestic model captured the top spot. Ford sold 409,751 Taurus midsized sedans in 1992, beating out Honda Motor Company's Accord. Honda sold 393,477 Accords, losing the best-seller title it had held for the previous three years. `That's good for Ford'

"It means we're making products the American public likes. And I think that's good for Ford," says Ford general manager Ross Roberts.

The American public will hear a lot about the victory in the coming weeks. At a press conference in Detroit Wednesday, Mr. Roberts showed one in a series of commercials which will focus on Ford's sales leadership.

Will that make much of a difference?

David Davis, editor of the influential magazine, Automobile, says Ford's victory "doesn't change the automotive universe one bit. The hollow claim that `We're No. 1' only proves they're willing to give away the store."

Indeed, the two carmakers fought their battle with significant amounts of cash. Industry analysts estimate Ford spent $50 million on rebates and other incentives to lure customers into its showrooms. Buyers could ink a two-year lease on a fully equipped Taurus sedan for $248 a month plus a $1,500 downpayment. With a sticker price of $18,600, that same car normally carries a monthly lease payment of $320.

"Every day on the fax they sent over something saying `Sell Taurus. Sell Taurus,' " says Scott Runyan, general manager of Crown Ford, in Roswell, Ga. "This is probably the strongest effort I've seen for one car line."

Other analysts maintain the victory will pay off for Ford.

"A lot of people care about who is No. 1," says David Cole, director of the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation. "It symbolizes the comeback of the American car company. American products are far more competitive than they were a few years ago, when the Japanese had superior quality and fit-and-finish. …

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