Ford reports 2.6% gain in U.S. sales


DEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Motor Co. yesterday said that its U.S. sales of cars and trucks rose 2.6 percent in January, capping a month of modest industry growth paced by strong gains by Japanese automakers.

Ford's gains were higher than the small change expected by analysts and were helped by strong sport utility, minivan and pickup truck sales. The company's car sales declined.

The industry's January sales in the United States rose about 6 percent above year-earlier levels, which were the weakest of 1996.

January sales came in at an annualized rate of 14.9 million vehicles, up from 14.0 million a year ago but below the 15.2 million in sales expected for the full year.

Ford's performance, which compared with a weak month for the automaker a year ago, topped those of its U.S. rivals. Chrysler Corp. yesterday reported a 2 percent rise in January sales, while General Motors Corp.'s sales fell 1.5 percent from January 1996.

Toyota Motor Corp. reported yesterday that sales surged 56 percent to 106,648, including its Lexus luxury division. Toyota brand car and truck sales jumped 53 percent to 98,989.

Toyota's strong performance, along with big gains reported yesterday by Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., gave Japanese auto companies the best showing in the industry.

Ford said its truck sales rose 14 percent to 161,416 vehicles, with the Expedition sport utility, Windstar minivan and F-Series pickup truck all enjoying strong demand.

Ford's car sales fell 8.1 percent to 113,396.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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