There are a few things that car and truck buyers have always been able to count on over the last few decades. The first is that the Ford Mustang will always outsell its Chevrolet Camaro pony car competitor, and the second is that the Ford F-Series pickup will continue its dominance of the full-size truck market. In fact, the venerable model came into 2009 having held the number one sales position for 32 years.
The past year threw all sorts of conventional wisdom into question, particularly the notion that in the auto industry, past performance would be indicative of future gains. While Chrysler and General Motors spent most of 2009 fervently hoping that this simple truism would prove false, Ford found itself in the unique position of seeing its two best-selling automobiles reposition themselves as underdogs. With all of the fuss surrounding the industry bailout and economic recession that had such a huge impact on both vehicle buyers and sellers alike, it took until the summer of 2009 for industry observers to notice that buyers weren't turning out in droves to pick up either the Ford Mustang or the Ford F-Series.
In the case of the former, most of the initial sales drop-off was attributed to the media attention surrounding the release of the all-new Chevrolet Camaro, fresh off its starring role in the Transformers films and sporting a V-8 engine that was much more powerful than its Blue Oval rival. The Chevrolet Camaro was simply the hottest vehicle design in town, with many dealerships adding names to a waiting list that soon grew into the thousands. Once deliveries began, an overflow of these bowtie-wearing muscle cars hit the streets, with pundits declaring a fresh victory in the battle that had raged between the two Detroit-based brands since the late 1960s.
Unfortunately for Chevrolet, it turns out that almost everyone who wanted to buy a new Chevrolet Camaro did so right away. The much-ballyhooed waiting lists had been filled with Chevrolet Camaro superfans, and after they had brought their new prizes home to be lovingly parked in the garage, the number of Camaro sales slowed down to a far more sustainable pace. Meanwhile, Ford continued to sell V-6 powered Ford Mustangs as well as a sizable number of GT models at a steady rate, eventually moving 66,623 vehicles - over 5,000 more than the Chevrolet Camaro. Although the Chevrolet wasn't available until March of 2009, given the slow auto sales in the first quarter of that year it is unlikely that the Chevrolet Camaro would have enjoyed the same honeymoon period had it left the assembly line earlier than planned.
In the coming year, the Ford Mustang is slated to receive a substantial power upgrade that will make it more than a match, at least on paper, for the most potent edition of the Chevrolet Camaro. This has undoubtedly kept more than a few Ford Mustang fans in limbo as they await the opportunity to purchase a revised version of their favorite vehicle, and this should translate into a significant sales spike in 2010 that will see the Camaro fall even further behind.
The Ford F-Series also gave the bean counters at Dearborn cause to look in the rearview mirror during the same summer period when it became clear that the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 had found a larger customer share than the Ford F-150. Six months of data clearly indicated in July that the perpetual also-ran in the full-size truck race had finally begun to outpace the master. However, thanks to Ford's almost complete domination of the heavy-duty truck segment, combined Ford F-Series sales were able to once again trump the Chevrolet Silverado by year's end, with 413,625 trucks unloaded compared to 316,544. This not only made the Ford F-Series the best-selling truck for the 33rd year in a row, but it also qualified it as the most popular vehicle in North America.
Consumer confidence in Ford is obviously on the way up, as evidenced by the company's ability to fight off temporary enemy surges on two of its most important flanks. Overall, Ford managed to claim 15 percent of the total market in 2009, which represents a one percent improvement over its performance the year before. This is the first instance of Ford grabbing additional market share since 1995.
One percent might not seem all that impressive until the global economic picture is taken into consideration. With two of the Big Three car companies in the United States forced to reorganize to avoid liquidation, Ford has been able to outperform the market in general, thanks to a lineup of recently updated vehicles and the promise of continued automotive development in the future. Car buyers are clearly investing their dollars in a company that they feel will be around long enough to handle their warranty concerns, and maybe even offer an appealing trade-up option once their current rides are ready to be replaced.