Ford's (NYSE:F) "Year of the Car" is off to a rough start.

In January, U.S. sales fell more than 5%, as lower passenger car sales provided a drag, even as sales of F-Series trucks jumped 10% to over 60,000. For the F-Series, that's the fifth consecutive month of double-digit growth, "coinciding with the introduction of the all-new F-150."

As you'll recall, The Big Three -- Ford, General Motors (NYSE:GM), and DaimlerChrysler (NYSE:DCX) -- began the year full of optimism. Like Ford, however, GM also saw U.S. sales fall 2% in January.

The rough start notwithstanding, reasons for optimism remain. Ford will introduce a redesigned Focus, several new vehicles, and a new edition of the Ford Mustang. The Mustang, in particular, with its throwback styling, has many drooling in anticipation. Interestingly, sales of the "old" Mustang were up 47% in January.

And throwback is all the rage. If you watched the Super Bowl -- a boon or bust for CBS and MTV parent Viacom (NYSE:VIA), depending on whom you ask -- you noticed the new Ford GT, a reintroduction of the legendary GT40 race cars of the 1960s. That was before my time, but anybody who has played the Gran Turismo series on Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PS1 and PlayStation 2 (and believe me, that's a lot) knows that car.

Yes, January was a rough start. But for all that, Ford's hopes for a good year are not dead. Its new cars and reintroductions may yet prove to be valuable brand builders for a company that recently fell behind Toyota (OTC: TOYOF) among the top car sellers in the U.S.

Rough start or bad omen? Give us your take on the Ford discussion board.

Jeff Hwang can be reached here.