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Automaker Winners In A Down Market

As we watch GM and Ford shares approach lows we haven't seen since the days when Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was topping the charts, and while mighty Toyota ponders cutting truck production in the U.S., I decided Friday deserves some lovin'.

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GM
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7203.T
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2008 Mazda CX-7
Source: mazdausa.com
2008 Mazda CX-7

So, as we get ready ready for next week's New York Auto Show, here are some bright spots in the auto world.

Mazda:
Often overlooked, and unfairly rarely getting the credit it deserves for consistently cranking out winners, Mazda is rolling right now. Through February, sales are up 8.3 percent led by its popular CX-9. But it's more. There's the Mazda5, CX-7, and Tribute SUV all showing gains.

2008 Lincoln MKX
Source: lincoln.com
2008 Lincoln MKX

What's the secret? Well designed, high quality models that won't let you down. Listen, nobody will mistake a Mazda for a BMW, but that's not the idea. You want a line-up that won't disappoint, you'll find it with Mazda.

MKX sales are up 45.8 percent this year, and once we see the MKZ, Lincoln will have 2 winners with a sophisticated, but not tired look. As Jim Farley at Ford has said many times, "Lincoln is a sleeping giant."

Honda:
The steady Eddie's of the auto world just keep marching along with sales up 1.5 percent this year thanks to Honda's car business increasing 6.1 percent. The Civic (no surprise) pint-size Fit and CR-CV are doing great right now largely because they give buyers exactly what they want, and they don't overshoot their target audience.

That's. No small feet. It's tough to make a mass market model that consistently gains sales. The Civic does that. The Fit is perfectly positioned for a market where gas prices are surging towards $4.00 a gallon.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

Autos