Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Will Ford Catch Toyota in 2010?

2010 Fusion Hybrid
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Jean Jennings is no wallflower. She says what she thinks. It may not always turn out to be true, but that's not stopping the Editor of Automobile Magazinefrom saying whatever she wants.

And most times, it gets your attention.

Take her prediction to me Monday night about Ford and Toyota . During our prime time special she said emphatically that Ford would pass up Toyota and again become #2 in the U.S. From Jean's perspective, Ford's resurgence in cars combined with its strength in trucks, sport utilities, and crossovers will power the company past the Japanese automaker.

Do I think Jean is right?

Eventually yes, but I don't think it will happen in 2010.

Look at the numbers. Stripping out Volvo (61,435 sold last year), Ford trails Toyota in total sales by 154,350. Meaning Ford will have to out sell Toyota by 12,862 every month. That is a huge task even when one company is surging and the other is struggling.

The Detroit Auto Show 2010

Toyota is struggling by Toyota standards, but it's not in a free fall. Yes, the recall of more than 3 million vehicles and the questions surrounding unintended acceleration have created questions about Toyota's heralded reputation for quality. And the design appeal of Toyota's cars in the last two years has slipped as people see the Camry as "nice but not exciting.” That said Toyota still attracts buyers, throngs of buyers with a solid line-up.

On the other hand, Ford has its mojo working right now. Its car line-up is spot on. Fusion and the Fusion Hybrid are red-hot (sales up roughly 25% last year) and the Taurus will do much better next year with a full fear of sales. Its crossovers are also well positioned. And Ford is creating a differentiator with buyers thanks to its Sync and MyFord programs. The technology is making Ford models, "must have rides".

Brands to Watch

Still, Ford has to show it can beat Toyota day in, day out next year. And while I think Americans now have Ford on their shopping list for test drives when buying a car, they also Toyota on that list. Ford will win over some of those buyers, but not all of those buyers.

Give Ford credit, it's coming on strong and I do think it can eventually catch Toyota. I just don't think it will happen this year.


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