Ford sales rise 2.4% for first monthly gain in 19 months

Ford sales rise 2.4% for first monthly gain in 19 months
Chrissie Thompson Automotive News August 3, 2009 - 11:00 am ET Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales rose 2.4 percent in July, their first
year-over year increase in 19 months, boosting hopes that the federal cash-for-clunkers incentive has shaken industry demand from its 27-year lows.
The gain was paced by small cars and Ford's most fuel-efficient trucks. The Focus was up 44 percent and the Fusion advanced 66 percent. Sales of the Escape SUV, which includes a hybrid version, nearly doubled, and the Ranger small pickup rose 65 percent.
The result is "a very good indication for the economy," Ford U.S. sales chief Ken Czubay said Sunday in an interview, before the tally was released.
The company saw a "substantial increase in business'' after the July 24 kickoff of the clunkers program, he said. "That kicked us over the top."
July's results brought Ford's U.S. sales decline for the year to 29.7 percent.
Seasonally adjusted annual sales rates have ranged from 9.1 million and 9.9 million so far this year. In addition to experiencing industrywide sales woes, Ford's Detroit 3 rivals, General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group, have also spent part of this year in government-sponsored bankruptcy reorganization.
The cash-for-clunkers program is close to exhausting its $1 billion in federal funding. The incentive offers vouchers of $3,500 to $4,500 to consumers who trade in qualified gas guzzlers for new vehicles with better fuel economy.
The Obama administration has said it will honor the clunkers program through Tuesday. The U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, has already passed a $2 billion extension for cash for clunkers, and the Senate is expected to take up the measure this week.
Analysts had said the program goosed U.S. auto sales across the board last month. J.D. Power and Associates originally estimated the seasonally adjusted sales rate would be 10 million vehicles in July, but last week boosted that estimate to 10.7 million. J.D. Power analyst Jeff Schuster told Automotive News he thought a rate above 11 million units was possible. Credit Suisse estimated the July rate reached 12.1 million to 12.4 million vehicles.
The June light-vehicle sales rate was 9.5 million vehicles.

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