According to the Associated Press the Ford vs. Toyota battle of who has the top-selling car in the world comes down to a name.
On Wednesday Ford claimed the title for its Focus compact during the first half of the year as cited by registration data gathered by the R.L. Polk & Co. research firm.
Erich Merkle, Ford's top sales analyst, reported that from January through June of this year 589,709 Focuses were sold across the globe, a 20 percent increase over the first half of last year.
Merkle said he could not release Polk's numbers for the Corolla but stated that the Focus beat the perennial #2 Toyota Corolla. A Polk spokeswoman confirmed that the number provided by Ford was accurate. They declined further comment. If the Focus beats Corolla for all of 2013, it would be the second year in a row that Ford is crowned this honor.
But Toyota says Ford is playing a name game. The Japanese automaker has said that they have sold cars under other names that are nearly identical to the Corolla. In the U.S. it sold a Corolla hatchback under the Matrix name, and outside of the U.S. it sells cars that are almost identical to the Corolla under different names in different countries. Ford doesn't tally these other nameplates in its Corolla count. Toyota disputes that if all the other nameplates are added in, the Corolla is the winner.
A Toyota spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company disagrees with Ford and is now preparing a response to Ford's claims.
Merkle attributes the Focus' gains to China, where sales more than doubled to 202,380 in the first half of the year. There is a new version of the Focus in China that has been on the market for only about a year and it's still considered a new item there.
Back home in the U.S. Focus sales aren't as hot, where they're up only 1 percent to 188,654 through September. This is in comparison to U.S. sales overall which are up more than 8 percent for the first three quarters of the year, according to Autodata Corp.
Due to the short volume of sales of the Focus and the C-Max gas-electric hybrid Ford has planned a two-week shutdown of the Michigan Assembly Plant near Detroit during the fourth quarter to control inventory. This is the location where both cars are manufactured.
The Corolla has not been faring well in U.S. sales and fall behind the overall market. Recently they're up 5 percent through September as they put a new, sleeker-looking Corolla out in the market. It replaced its 5-year-old model with the newer version.