Soaring gas prices last month helped propel Ford Motor Co. to No. 1 in U.S. sales, beating GM for the first time since February 2010. Before that, Ford hadn’t surpassed GM since 1998, according to Edmunds.com.
Led by strong sales of hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles, Ford retail sales rose 52 percent to 2,008 units in March, the best month since August 2009. GM dealers reported 206,621 total sales during March, an increase of 38 percent for its four brands.
“Consumers are placing a high priority on fuel efficiency in every size and kind of vehicle,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of U.S. sales.
On Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $3.77. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach area it was $4.17.
Dealerships across the country, including the San Gabriel Valley’s seven company locations, have reported increases in demand for fuel-efficient models. The hybrid Fusion set a new record with sales of 27,566, up 21 percent from a year ago.
“It’s been dramatic,” said Rick Covani, a sales manager for Advantage Ford Lincoln Mercury in Duarte.
Covani said hybrid customers are evolving. “It’s all across the board, unlike before when it was really one type of group looking at hybrids,” he said.
Dealers have also seen a steady rise in demand for other fuel-efficient vehicles. The sales bump was led by a 41 percent year-over-year increase in demand for the
Fiesta, which starts at just over $13,000 and gets 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on the highway.
Ford’s Fiesta set a record in March as monthly sales reached 9,787, up 56 percent from February. Fiesta’s retail share of its segment has increased every month since it was introduced last summer, and Los Angeles continues to be the No. 1 sales region for Fiesta.
Other company models also continued to outpace 2010 sales. Ford Mustang sales were up 47 percent and the Lincoln MKZ was up 28 percent from a year ago. Sales of the MKZ Hybrid reached a record 615, accounting for 20 percent of MKZ retail sales.
“Customers are rewarding Ford for our investment in new products as well as more efficient engines and transmissions, which saves them money at the pump, whether they drive Fiestas or F-Series trucks,” Czubay said.
Covani said he expects the trend to continue largely because of turmoil in OPEC countries. Gas prices have shot up as unrest in North Africa and the Middle East rattled energy markets and increased global demand for crude oil.
“People haven’t really started to see the full effect of rising gas prices,” Covani said. “It’s not here yet, but it will be and it will be `ginormous.”‘
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