DETROIT – (January 6, 1993) – Powered by strong sales of its Taurus sedan and Explorer sport utility vehicle, Ford Motor Co. said yesterday that its share of the North American auto market grew to nearly 25 percent in 1992.
Official sales results won’t be reported until today, but Alex Trotman, Ford’s president and chief operating officer, said the company picked up market share in cars and trucks in the past 12 months.
But Trotman said he couldn’t answer the No. 1 question presented by reporters at the 1993 North American International Auto Show.
“I’ll anticipate the first question you’ll pitch my way and tell you right off that I don’t know the results of the Taurus-Accord race,” he said at a news conference.
Ford has been pushing Taurus sales hard for the past month and at last count was in a virtual dead heat with the prized Honda Accord, the top-selling car in America the past three years.
Ford sells hundreds of thousands more cars than Honda worldwide, but producing the best-selling car in America is considered an industry trophy and an advertising coup.
Ford has scheduled a news conference for later today and is expected to announce its 1992 sales figures, including results for Taurus.
Honda’s first meeting with the press will come tomorrow, although the company is expected to release sales results for December and all of 1992 today.
Industry experts predict that Ford will win the coveted title, taking over first place with an aggressive leasing program and a $1,500 rebate it placed on the already hot-selling Taurus in December.
Trotman did say that preliminary estimates put Ford’s share of the new car market at 21.7 percent, up 1.7 percent from last year.
Overall, Ford captured about 24.6 percent of the total market for cars and trucks in 1992, up 4.6 percent from where it stood at the end of 1982.
Ross Roberts, Ford’s vice president and general manager of the Ford Division, said the company has yet to feel the impact of its newest competitor in the truck market, Toyota’s T100 pickup.
“Right now they seem to be going after their own customers,” said Roberts. “But ultimately, I think they’ll be going after ours.”
Industry executives in Detroit say they believe that Toyota is keeping a low profile with its new product, hoping to avoid an increase in the 25 percent tariff it is hit with when imported in America.
Toyota fears the administration of President-elect Bill Clinton will take a tougher stand on trade with Japan and boost tariffs on the truck past 30 percent.
Detroit automakers have long feared a Japanese advance on the full-size pickup market, the last bastion of American dominance in the industry.
“We’ll know more once the truck has been out awhile,” Roberts said. “Texas will be critical. I expect them to make a big push in Texas and California. They need to do well in those two states.”
Although Ford has been improving its balance sheet in North America, the company may be facing troubled times from its European operations – long a source of high profits for Detroit.
The economy in Europe has dipped into a recession and is not expected to recover until mid-1994, experts say.
“In Europe our biggest challenges are the economic problems facing the continent,” Roberts said. “The UK was the first European economy to go into recession and may be the first to come out. The British recession has been particularly tough on us because it is our largest market.
“The 1993 outlook for Europe is for no or low economic growth – a difficult year without much looking bright in any of the key markets.”
Trotman said that although Ford may have to trim operations there, it won’t back off in its goals for the European market.
“We exported a little more than 50,000 North American-built cars in 1992 and we expect to ship over 60,000 this year,” he said, adding that improving markets in the Far East could make up for losses in Europe.
“We are introducing the Explorer in Germany, the Probe and Taurus in Taiwan, and the right-hand-drive Probe in the U.K and Japan.”
Ford’s show-stopper this year is the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII.
Its display at the show, held at Cobo Hall in Detroit, is centered around the new luxury coupe, which Lincoln-Mercury officials believe will become the flagship for its lineup.
“It is a no-compromise single model focused on what the Mark VIII should be,” said Lee Miskowski, Lincoln-Mercury Division general manager.
“It’s powered by an all-aluminum 4.6-liter, 4-cam engine that produces 280 horsepower. This is the first all-aluminum engine V8 engine mass produced by Ford and is the culmination of more than 60 years of company experience in building V8 engines.”
The company had more than 15,000 Mark VIII orders on hand when it officially went on sale Dec. 26.
“That’s more than half of what we plan to sell in the first model year,” Miskowski said.
Author: Michael D. Towle; Star-Telegram Writer
Copyright 1993, 1994 STAR-TELEGRAM INC.