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Ford Blows Its Own Horn on Retail Sales

Paul Ausick

Automakers are expected to report December sales on Friday, but Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) issued an announcement on Monday morning claiming that it will sell 2.4 million vehicles in 2013 and will retain its lead as the "best-selling brand" in the United States for the fourth consecutive year. The company also reported that retail sales are up 15% year-over-year in 2013.

Ford expects to sell north of 400,000 more vehicles in the U.S. than second-place Toyota Motor Corp. (TM). Of its total sales, Ford said that 1.7 million vehicles were sold through retail outlets and that passenger cars will account for 600,000 of those retail sales. The company's F-150 pickup trucks are set to surpass 700,000 units in U.S. sales, and sales of its hybrid electrics are destined to sell more than 80,000 units in 2013.

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What Ford means by "best-selling brand" is a bit unclear. In terms of overall market share, General Motors Co. (GM) leads with an 18% share at the end of November, according to Kelley Blue Book. Ford's share was 15.6% and Toyota's was 14.2%. Without exactly saying so, Ford is counting only retail sales, not commercial, government or rental fleet sales.

Based on an analysts' estimate of 15.6 million new vehicles sold in 2013, Ford's total sales of 2.4 million works out to market share of about 15.4%. If the number of new cars sold rises above that estimate, Ford's share will drop, unless the company is wrong about its total U.S. sales.

No one ever doubted that Ford could sell vehicles in the United States. And while the U.S. was a growth market in 2013, the leading market for new car sales is now China, where Ford is far behind GM in market share. GM's share of the Chinese market in 2012 was around 13.7%, while Ford got a measly 3.2%. Ford's numbers are expected to be higher this year, but it is still in a deep hole.

Ford shares were trading at $15.35, up about 0.4%, shortly after opening Monday morning. The stock's 52-week range is $12.10 to $18.02.

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