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Toyota Sticking To Demure Script. Ford Who?

Toyota Motor Sales U.S. chief Jim Lentz wouldn't comment about whether he thought Toyota would surpass Ford Motor Co. in market sharethis year, and said it really doesn't matter.

"We don't adjust our plans based on their performance," Lentz said. "I'm not going to, as the head of Toyota, make bad business decisions just to chase someone else."

He added that Toyota doesn't advertise its ranking for specific products, and doesn't believe it's something that customers care about.

That's not what Ford thinks. "People don't care too much about whether their car is the top brand, but in pickups, that's not the case...truck buyers like to know they are part of a winner," says Ford Division marketing chief Barry Engle.

Ford is the top pickup truck brand in the U.S., but that is in large part because General Motors splits up its full-size pickup trucks sales between the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. Combined, GM outsells Ford.

Toyota closed 2006 with a market share of 13.3%, while Ford closed at 17.4% Toyota could easily top 14% this year, especially with the added volume of its redesigned Tundra pickup, and Ford says it expects to be between 14% and 15% this year as it dials down rental fleet sales and forecasts lower truck and SUV sales.

Ford nosed out Chevy for total sales in 2006, but it was a hollow victory considering the downsizing Ford is under going. It's a tough historical marker to consider that Ford will bow to both Chevy and Toyota in the same year.

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