According to The Wall Street Journal, Ford (NYSE: F) grew its U.S. light-vehicle sales 25% in April, putting 167,283 new cars and light trucks on American roads. In contrast, beleaguered automaker GM posted only 7% sales growth on an annual basis.

So ... does this mean that stubbornly independent Ford is doing nearly four times better than its "Government Motors" rival?

In a word: No. It doesn't.

Turns out, GM included in its sales total the numbers of vehicles (not) sold under its discarded Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, and Saab brands whose brands collectively dropped 95% year over year. Had GM elected to take the aggressive road more often traveled in corporate PR circles, and report just the retail numbers (not including fleet sales) from its remaining brands -- Chevy, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC -- its sales growth would have been 33%, an astounding 26 percentage points higher!

Foolish takeaway
Between its surprising sales strength (given the stigma attached to its wholly owned-subsidiary-of-the-U.S.-Department-of-Treasury status), and its attention-getting debt repayment of last month, GM appears to have true momentum as it rolls on to the IPO stage, which could come as soon as this year.

With its debt burden greatly reduced by last year's bankruptcy, don't be surprised if a newly public GM turns the tables on Ford. This IPO is one to watch.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. Rich is not a licensed economist, but he plays one on the Web. Check out his latest stock picks in Motley Fool CAPS. Ford is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.