) -- Among the many pieces of recent good news for the two big U.S. automakers is this:
and Chevy can compete in the U.S. small car market.
In November, Ford reached its highest share level in the small car market in at least six years, as both the Fiesta and the Focus attracted buyers. The gains were key to the 24% increase in Ford's November sales. The company now holds about 10% of the small car retail market.
, the small car focus, for the moment, is on the new Cruze (above). Chevrolet is ramping up production and dealers are telling the company they want more deliveries.
Looking ahead, however, the Volt is "the
new soul of this company and of Chevrolet as a brand," according to Mark Reuss, president of GM North America.
Where are Ford and Chevy's small-car sales coming from? We can't say for sure, but in November, sales of the
Corolla declined by 29%, or 5,697 cars. For the year, Corolla sales are down 6.8% to 244,024 cars.
"We've been fairly successful in getting more consideration from people who have bought Toyotas and Hondas in the past," said Ford analyst George Pipas, in an interview. "If we're making gains, there's a presumption we might be getting some biz from them."
Here's a look at the cars that have Ford and Chevy so excited.
Sales of the Ford Focus rose in November 27.8% to 13,030 cars.
Ford will introduce a new Focus early in 2011; the promotional effort should be in full swing at the Detroit Auto Show in January. At this year's show, Ford unveiled the car, a global vehicle built the same way at plants in Europe, China and Wayne, Mich. The current model replaced the original Focus, introduced in 1998.
Pipas said the introduction of the Fusion in 2005 was a "tipping point" because "people came to trust Ford as a provider of passenger cars. If it were not for the Fusion and the reputation it gained, I don't think we would have earned the right to be considered for products like the Fiesta and the Focus."
Sales of the new Chevrolet Cruze totaled 8,066 in November, contributing to a 13% increase in Chevrolet retail sales and an 18% increase in overall Chevrolet sales.
in the U.S. in September, positioning the car against the Focus, the Corolla and the
On the GM November sales call, executives said the company started the month with an inventory of 9,000 Cruzes and had "a very good turn rate." Inventory build is just starting, and with positive feedback from dealers, sales are expected to rise as inventory becomes available.
November sales of the Ford Fiesta totaled 3,473. The car was introduced in July, and Pipas said the rate of increase in Ford small car sales "has been elevated since then." Selling small cars is an important breakthrough for Ford, he said, because 50% of first-time buyers under 30 buy small cars. "This represents new business for us," he said.
On the Ford sales call, Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. marketing and sales, noted that ten of the top 25 Fiesta dealers in November were in California, a market where Ford has long been a laggard -- there, it's a pickup truck company in a small-car market. "Ford has caught on in California," Czubay said. "We're not just a truck company anymore
The Volt is starting to come off the assembly line at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant. Chevrolet gave the money from the first two sales to worthy causes, but it still plans to sell about 10,000 Volts in 2011 and 45,000 in 2012.
At an event last week to
celebrate the start of Volt production, hopeful GM CEO Dan Akerson said the number could increase, depending on demand. He said GM has "studies underway to see what we could do if we had to double production
or triple production.
"I have a sense this is going to be a game changer," Akerson said. "We have to be prepared to meet that."
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: