Happy New Year!
While most of us wrapped 2006 with holiday parties and hopefully a few days off - hey, at least that's what I did last week - Chevy and Ford dealers finished a pitched battle to see which brand would wrap up the year as number one in total sales. The winner gets bragging rights as being America's favorite nameplate for cars and trucks. The loser will claim it doesn't matter. The truth is, this "two-man" race between Chevy and Ford could become a three horse battle in the next couple of years as Toyota closes in.
In 2005, Chevy passed up Ford as the best selling brand in the U.S. for the first time since the mid 80's. But in 2006, through November, Ford had outsold Chevrolet by roughly 23,000 vehicles. That's not an insurmountable lead -- Chevy dealers were working hard to come back and take the crown, all the while trying to hold the line on incentives.
Ford has said publicly that it's focused on getting back in the black and driving sales for the sake of profits, not market share. Since the automaker's already lost more than 5 billion dollars in 2006, they are taking the right approach. But one has to wonder if this is the last year either Chevy or Ford will be the top selling brand in the U.S.
Toyota is coming on strong. It went into December trailing Chevy by just 174,000 sales and Ford by 197,000. That gap is likely to draw even closer in 2007 as Toyota makes a big push with it's new Tundra pick-up. And if the re-designed Camry stays red-hot, the best selling car in the country could help a Japanese brand become number one with American car buyers in '07.
We'll have the first results on December auto sales starting Wednesday morning, and we will see who finishes '06 as the best selling brand.
Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com