Cash For Clunkers Boosts Ford's July Sales 1.6 Pct - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Cash For Clunkers Boosts Ford's July Sales 1.6 Pct

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DETROIT (AP) - Lured by the government's cash-for-clunkers campaign, car and truck buyers started to return to Ford Motor Co. showrooms last month, with the automaker reporting its first U.S. sales increase in nearly two years.

July sales of light vehicles rose 1.6 percent from the same month last year. Ford sold 158,354 vehicles, a 2.2 percent increase over last month and a sign that consumer fears that fueled the worst U.S. auto sales slump in a quarter-century may be easing.

Retail sales - which exclude purchases made to government agencies and rental car companies - rose 9 percent.

Ford's sales, led by the redesigned midsize Ford Fusion, and strong sales of the Escapes crossover vehicle and F-series pickup line, offered encouraging signs for industry analysts who have predicted a modest improvement in the second-half of the year.

The wildly successful clunker program boosted Ford's sales despite concerns about whether it would be suspended during the final two sales days of the month. The program was expected to boost industry sales overall, which were down 35 percent in the first half of 2009.

Called the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS, the clunkers program offers owners of old cars and trucks $3,500 or $4,500 toward a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle, in exchange for scrapping their old vehicle.

Congress approved the plan early in July, but the government considered suspending it on Thursday after an overwhelming response threatened to deplete the $1 billion allocated for the rebates.

But the program continued and the House voted to allocate another $2 billion to keep the sales going. Senators were to vote on the plan this week.

Ford was the first to report monthly sales results on Monday, but analysts expect many other automakers to turn in strong performances for the month, most notably Korea's Hyundai Motor Co., which may pass Chrysler Group LLC and Japan's Nissan Motor Co. in sales for the first time in history. Subaru of America says it expects a 30 percent July sales increase.

George Pipas, Ford's top sales analyst, attributed the company's sales uptick to its more fuel-efficient products, saying that consumers are trending toward better gas mileage despite gasoline prices that around $2.50 per gallon.

Shares of Ford rose 47 cents, or 6 percent, to $8.47 in early trade Monday. Shares of the company have risen steadily since Ford reported a surprise second-quarter profit last month.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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