Numero uno brand in the US car market for nearly two decades, the Ford marque is within a whisker of being overtaken by General Motors' Chevrolet division.

In terms both of dollar sales and market share, Chevvy has this year loomed ever closer in Ford's rearview mirror. Through the first nine months, both brands were neck and neck, each with 15.7% of the US home market for new cars and light trucks.

But at the end of October, Chevrolet edged ahead with sales of 2.26 million light vehicles against Ford's 2.25m. However, for both companies those sales were achieved at a price: heavy discounting and the resultant erosion of margins.

GM's corporate fingers are now crossed in the hope that its year-end clearance sales will propel Chevrolet first past the finishing line. Such a feat would boost the morale of dealers as the firm launches its GMT-900 line of pickups and SUVs.

Muses Ed Peper, general manager of the Chevrolet division: "To be the industry leader would be a great thing. For us the products themselves have to stand on their own merit [and] leadership is a consequence of our success doing that."

Although GM overall has for long been US market leader, this is due to the agglomeration of its Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Saturn brands. Ford, currently overall number three stateside behind Toyota, also makes the Lincoln and Mercury brands.

  • GM and Fiat in European Deal

    Elsewhere in the auto universe, Ford on Monday signed an agreement with Italy's Fiat to collaborate on small cars, finalizing a preliminary deal to co-develop new models.

    The duo expect to save on R&D costs, also from economies of scale in vehicle production and parts procurement. Fiat, currently in recovery from intensive care, says the deal is a neat fit in its selective alliance strategy.

    Two new models will emerge from the partnership: a relaunch of Fiat's iconic Cinquecento, and a new Ford Ka - both to be made at Fiat's Polish factory. The new twosome will be unveiled in 2007 and 2008 and "will play a significant role in each company's European product range."

    Financial projections assume sales of 240,000 units annually, split equally between the two brands.

    Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff