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FORD LEADS PACK IN CALIFORNIA; U.S. AUTOMAKER BEATS OUT IMPORTS.

Byline: Enrique Rivero Daily News Staff Writer

Thought that imports are the best-selling cars on California roads these days? Well, think again.

More cars and trucks manufactured by Ford Motor Co. were sold last year in the crucial - and trend-setting - California market than by any other maker, according to an independent study released Wednesday by Ford.

With a total of 370,155 cars and trucks, Ford last year outsold General Motors, which ranked second in the state with 367,632; Toyota, at 214,411; Chrysler, at 185,495; and Honda, at 157,947.

Still, the most popular individual vehicles on the road, according to market researcher R.L. Polk Co. of Detroit, were imports: the Honda Civic, which sold 61,551 units; and the Toyota Camry, with 58,999.

Ford's top ranking in the state goes counter to conventional thinking, which says California is an import-dominated market, said David Raphael, Western marketing manager for Ford.

``We were able to beat GM and we beat the imports, which are perceived to be so dominant in California,'' Raphael said. ``California is an important auto market, just as it's important for a lot of trend-setting things.''

Ford has led the pack in California four out of five years, he said. In addition, it ranked second nationally with about 3.7 million cars and trucks sold, behind top-ranked General Motors, which sold 4.6 million.

Galpin Motors, the Van Nuys auto dealership that has sold more Fords than any other dealer in the country, also had a banner 1997, said owner Bert Boeckmann.

Galpin sold 14,095 Ford cars and trucks, giving it nearly 4 percent of the state's market. Its top-selling truck was the Explorer, with 2,744 sold. The Escort was the best-selling car at 909.

Boeckmann said his numbers and the statewide figures show that Ford offers the diversity and styles the public wants.

``Ford is continuing to dominate more and more of the marketplace in terms of desirability,'' he said.

Overall, Boeckmann said trucks and sport-utility vehicles outsold cars by far, and both the Explorer and Expedition were driven away by new buyers as quickly as they arrived on the lot.

While Ford dominated the market for trucks, Honda and Toyota sold the most cars. The Honda Civic and Accord ranked first and third among cars sold in California, and Toyota's Camry and Corolla placed second and fourth, according to R.L. Polk's figures.

The Accord and Civic models also ranked second and fourth nationally among cars. The Accord sold 384,609 units nationwide and the Civic sold 315,546, said Art Garner, a spokesman for American Honda Motor Co. Inc. in Torrance.

``We had a great year nationally, we had all-time sales nationally and we had a great year in California,'' he said.

California is the top market for Honda, though the company also did well in the southeastern United States - especially in Florida - in southwest Texas and in the New York City area.

Still, the ranking isn't the be-all and end-all for the company.

``It's always best to be No. 1 - we may even do some ads with it,'' Garner said. ``But your goal isn't necessarily to be No. 1.''

Sam Butto, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. in Torrance, pointed out that the company's third-place ranking behind the two domestic automakers puts Toyota at the head of the import pack in the state.

Toyota sold about 1.2 million cars and trucks across the nation, with more than 214,000 of those in California alone, Butto said.

``If you wanted to get creative, you could say Toyota is the No. 1-selling import in California,'' he said.

In addition, Toyota suffered through a number of supply shortages through the year, which makes the high ranking especially pleasing.

``I think the fact that Ford produces so many more vehicles in this country than we do might have been a factor as well,'' Butto added.

BEST SELLERS

Ford sold more vehicles in California in 1997 than any other manufacturer but the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry were the top vehicles.

TOP FIVE MANUFACTURERS

1. FORD MOTOR CO. 370,155

2. General Motors 367,632

3. Toyota 214,411

4. Chrysler 185,495

5. Honda 157,947

TOP TEN VEHICLES

1. Honda Civic 61,551

2. Toyota Camry 58,999

3. Ford F-SERIES 58,539

4. Honda Accord 57,453

5. Ford Explorer 42,888

6. Chevrolet C/K 36,599

7. Toyota Corolla 36,134

8. Ford Taurus 34,194

9. Ford RANGER 30,997

10. Toyota Pickup 28,853

TOP TEN CARS

1. Honda Civic 61,551

2. Toyota Camry 58,999

3. Honda Accord 57,453

4. Toyota Corolla 36,134

5. Ford Taurus 34,194

6. Ford Escort 25,192

7. Saturn 23,103

8. Chevrolet Cavalier 18,851

9. Ford Mustang 17,141

10. Pontiac Grand Am 15,746

TOP TEN TRUCKS

1. Ford F-Series 58,539

2. Ford Explorer 42,888

3. Chevrolet C/K 36,599

4. Ford Ranger 30,997

5. Toyota Pickup 28,853

6. Dodge Caravan 26,940

7. Toyota 4Runner 26,702

8. Dodge D150/350 26,655

9. Jeep Grand Cherokee 25,013

10. FORD Expedition 24,669

SOURCE: Ford Motor Co.

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Box

Photo: (Color) Galpin Motors keeps a large inventory of Ford F-Series trucks at Van Nuys Airport to meet demand for the nation's most popular truck.

Gus Ruelas/Daily News

Box: (Color) BEST SELLERS (see text)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 12, 1998
Words:916
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