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Ford's Stunning Leap Forward

By John Rosevear - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 1:52PM

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The automaker posted huge sales gains in February. Can it sustain them?

I knew Toyota's (NYSE: TM) troubles were going to benefit somebody. And I knew Ford (NYSE: F) was on a roll.

But I didn't expect their results to be quite this dramatic.

Ford posted its February sales results today, and the numbers were outstanding. While the solid 43% gain over last February's results was impressive, the real mind-blower was this: Up 22% versus January.

This despite rough weather on the East Coast that was expected to mute sales significantly.

Wow.

That can't all be Toyota, can it?
There are a few factors there. First, Ford itself is on a roll, plain and simple: It's got hot products and a rapidly improving reputation. Second, fleet sales -- an important market for all of the U.S. automakers -- were all but dead at this time last year. And sure enough, Ford reports that fleet sales were up 74% over last February.

But it wasn't all fleet: Retail sales were up 28%. General Motors' combined sales -- retail and fleet -- were only up 12% over last year, and Honda's (NYSE: HMC) were up 12.7%.

GM's muted showing is one reason I can't yet say for sure that these sales were taken from Toyota. While Toyota's sales were down 8.7%, it's too early to tell who exactly benefited.

But no matter where those sales came from, Ford had a great month.

Digging into the numbers
How great a month? When compared to last February, it's all increases, everywhere we look. Cars? Up 54%. Trucks? Up 36%. SUVs up 39%. Ford brand up 46%, Lincoln 19%, Mercury 24%. Ford estimates that it gained three points of market share -- 17% versus 14% -- a seismic move if it can sustain it.

Oh, and this nugget: Ford outsold GM by 334 vehicles. That's the first time it has outsold GM on a monthly basis in the U.S. since 1998. For the moment, at least, that makes it No. 1 in America.

It's just highlight after highlight. The Fusion sedan? Up 116%. Taurus? Up 93%. F-Series pickups? Up 39%. Escape? Focus? Mustang? Up, up, up. You get the idea.

I can't find a weak point. It was a great month by any measure.

But can it last?
But as well as Ford is doing as a company, I'm not sure it can sustain it. With reports that Toyota and now GM are teeing up major marketing and incentives campaigns, that big market-share gain might prove challenging to hang on to. And if some big chunk of Ford's gains really did come from Toyota, and if Toyota is able to get past its troubles and regain its own mojo ... well, you can see the concern.

But one thing's for sure: It's going to be a while yet before the new automotive pecking order becomes clear.

Read more about the ongoing auto industry shakeout:

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Stocks Mentioned

Ford Motor Company Stock Quote
Ford Motor Company
F
$12.04 (0.25%) $0.03
Honda Motor Co., Ltd. Stock Quote
Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
HMC
$24.44 (-2.40%) $0.60
Toyota Motor Corporation Stock Quote
Toyota Motor Corporation
TM
$156.53 (-1.60%) $-2.55

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