Ford on Monday claimed demand for its fuel efficient vehicles coupled with the US government's CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System aka 'cash for clunkers') scheme had given it the first sales increase of any major manufacturer in the US so far this year.

The automaker reported total sales in July up 2% to 158,838 units and retail sales up 9% to 118,197.

"We had another strong month in progress before the 'cash for clunkers' programme started," said sales and marketing head Ken Czubay.

"We achieved a sales increase even though we decreased incentive spending in an increasingly competitive environment."