DETROIT — Seven years ago, auto analysts were calling the Ford Escort the biggest gamble ever for Ford Motor Co. Figures released Thursday show that the gamble keeps paying off.
Ford sold 392,360 Escorts in 1987, making it the nation's best-selling car, according to year-end car sales statistics. Ford's Taurus, also a favorite for its smooth, aerodynamic profile, was second with 354,971. The Honda Accord was third with 334,876.
GM had four models in the top 10. Chevrolet Cavalier ranked No. 4, with 307,028 cars sold. GM's Chevrolet Celebrity was ranked No. 5, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera was No. 7 and the Chevrolet Corsica-Beretta was No. 10.
"I think the Ford Escort, among other Ford cars, has benefited from Ford's strong corporate image," said Christopher Cedergren, an auto analyst with J. D. Power & Associates, a Westlake Village automotive consulting firm. "Ford has also continued to improve the Escort in terms of execution and quality. . . . The Escort has become well entrenched in the consumer's mind."
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday January 9, 1988 Home Edition Business Part 4 Page 2 Column 5 Financial Desk 1 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
The base price of the Hyundai Excel is $5,295. A story Friday listed a higher figure that referred to the estimated price of a Hyundai equipped with options.
"The Escort has been the top one (or) two for the past two years . . . because of its price." said Cynthia Certo, an auto analyst with Integrated Automotive Resources, a car industry consulting firm in Philadelphia. She explained that the base price for the 1987 Escort was below $7,000, while one of its major competitors, the Hyundai Excel, sells for $8,200.
The Escort and Taurus have been key parts of Ford's dramatic turnaround. In the first six months of 1980, before the Escort's launch on Sept. 29, Ford lost more than $500 million. Now the company's profits exceed GM's. Ford also avoided the steep downturn in 1987 sales that GM and Chrysler suffered.
Ford's success with the Taurus also didn't surprise analysts. "The Taurus is very well thought out," said Theodore Sullivan, an automotive industry analyst with WEFA Group in Bala Cynwyd, Penn. "The average buyer is 40, has a young family, and is looking for space and style. It has all that and safety. That segment is growing. You're going to see (the Taurus) on top again this year."
The Ford Tempo ranked No. 9. Rounding out the top 10 were the Hyundai Excel, ranked No. 6, the Nissan Sentra, which was No. 8.
On Thursday, The Times published a model-sales ranking through November that was supplied by Integrated Automotive Resources. The consulting firm said Thursday that it had erred in some calculations of the top 10 car models by not including some imported cars in the totals. The firm said the Honda Accord should have been third through November, with sales of 302,833, and the Nissan Sentra should have been listed eighth, with sales of 220,210.
BEST-SELLING MODELS IN 1987
Final sales through December
Ford Escort 392,360
Ford Taurus 354,971
Honda Accord 334,876
Chevrolet Cavalier 307,028
Chevrolet Celebrity 306,480
Hyundai Excel 263,610
Olds Cutlass Ciera 244,607
Nissan Sentra 241,783
Ford Tempo 219,296
Chevrolet Corsica-Beretta 214,074
Source: Integrated Automotive Resources