United States consumers bought or leased 4,202,820 new cars and trucks from Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Jaguar, Volvo, and Land Rover in the 2000 calendar year, breaking the previous sales record (4,163,369) set in 1999.

However, the company's December new car and truck sales totalled 275,756, down 14 percent from December 1999's record 333,757.

"Overall, 2000 was an outstanding sales year," said Bob Rewey, Ford' group vice president of global consumer services and North America, "and we believe 2001 will be a good year, too. However, the first few months of 2001 will look pale against the extraordinary sales pace of early 2000 when GDP growth was averaging almost six percent and consumer confidence was at record levels."

"We believe 2001 industry sales will be in the range of 16 to 16.5 million," Rewey said. "That's a good sales year - quite possibly the third best year in history. But let's assume that the first quarter sales rate is 16 million, which is our planning assumption. That translates to a 15 percent decline in first quarter industry sales."

"Still, we're optimistic about the full year 2001 outlook. Consumer fundamentals, like job and income growth, are good and Ford has strong brands and the best line of products in its history."

Ford' F-Series pickup was America's best-selling vehicle for the 19th year in a row with record sales of 876,716 and, despite well-publicised problems with its Firestone tyres, the Explorer SUV remained America's best-seller for the 10th year in a row with record sales of 445,157.

The Focus, the North American Car of the Year in 2000, had first year sales of 286,166 while the Lincoln LS, Motor Trend magazine's 1999 Car of the Year, sold 51,039 units in its first full year.