GM's Chevy Camaro Outsells Ford Mustang, Ending Pony Car's 24-Year Reign

General Motor Co.’s Chevy Camaro snatched the sports-car crown Ford Motor Co.’s Mustang had held for 24 years.

The Camaro in 2010 outsold the Mustang 81,299 to 73,716. The two models have been battling for sports-car sales supremacy since the redesigned Camaro returned to the market in 2009 after a seven-year hiatus. Mustang had been the U.S. leader since 1986, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank of Southfield, Michigan. The rivalry dates to the 1960s.

The muscle-car matchup broke out as President Barack Obama and automakers sought to shift U.S. vehicle buyers to more fuel- efficient models. GM just introduced the Volt plug-in hybrid, Nissan Motor Co. has begun selling the Leaf electric hatchback and Ford has new hybrid and electric models that are scheduled to be revealed at the Detroit auto show next week.

“This race represents the America that loves cars,” said Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst with IHS Automotive in Lexington, Massachusetts. “These vehicles demonstrate that Americans still love well-designed, well-proportioned and well- performing cars.”

Camaro sales rose 32 percent in 2010, while Mustang sales rose 11 percent. Sales of both fell in December: Camaro by 26 percent, Mustang by 16 percent.

“Some of our competitors have been out of the market for some period of time,” Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. sales chief, said today on a conference call with analysts and reporters. “We’re very, very pleased with the fuel economy and technology gains” in the 2011-model Mustang.

Escape Versus Equinox

In a less glamorous battle, the Ford Escape small sport- utility vehicle held off the surging Chevy Equinox, 191,026 to 149,979. The Equinox, redesigned in 2010, outsold the Escape in November and December. Light trucks overall outsold cars last year for the first time since 2007, before record gasoline prices in July 2008 pushed buyers to more fuel-efficient cars.

“Small crossovers like these are what consumers are demanding,” Lindland said today in a telephone interview. “And the manufacturers are making money on them, too.”

Ford retained bragging rights in full-sized pickups, with the F-Series line extending its truck sales leadership for a 34th consecutive year. Ford sold 528,349 F-Series, a 28 percent gain, making it the top-selling vehicle of any kind in the U.S.

“Ford certainly still makes a lot of money on the F- Series, but now they make money on other vehicles as well,” Lindland said. “At one point, trucks were the only cash cow and that’s changed for the better.”

Top Brand

Ford was the best-selling auto brand in the U.S. in 2010, displacing Toyota Motor Corp.’s namesake brand, which fell to third behind GM’s Chevrolet brand. Ford sold 1.76 million Ford- brand vehicles last year, while GM sold 1.57 million Chevrolets and Toyota sold 1.49 million Toyota-brand cars and trucks.

Asian automakers overall retained their U.S. sales lead over U.S.-based car companies with a 46.3 percent market share compared with 45.1 percent as Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. offset Toyota’s loss. GM lost market share, while Ford and Chrysler Group LLC picked up share.

Ford rose 13 cents to $17.38 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, the highest closing price since May 31, 2002. GM gained 84 cents to $37.90, the highest close since public trading of the restructured company began Nov. 18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Naughton in Southfield, Michigan, at Knaughton3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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