In a Bay Area car landscape dominated by Toyota and Honda, the iconic faces of U.S. car manufacturing -- Ford and GM -- are fighting their way back into contention.
It's been a long climb back.
Ford's share of the California market has risen more than 2 percentage points -- from 9.5 percent in 2006 to 11.9 percent in the second quarter of this year, putting Ford in third place, behind Honda and top dog Toyota. GM remains in fourth, with 10.6 percent of the market.
Both Ford and GM have cars that are among the top five bestsellers in their categories in the state. Ford's Mustang is No. 1 in the sporty compact category and Chevy's Impala takes the top spot in the large mid-size category.
At The Ford Store in Morgan Hill, the Bay Area's No. 1 seller of Fords, Jo Babcock of San Francisco gave up his Toyota Scion and bought a 2013 Ford Transit Connect cargo van.
"Ford's a lot better than it used to be," Babcock said. "I've been driving Japanese cars for the last eight years. But things change and now Ford is up for the competition."
Fans of GM's Chevrolet brand feel just as strongly.
Ben Guill went shopping for a new SUV recently that would be both spacious and fuel efficient for his son, Mark, and ended up on the lot of Capitol Chevrolet in San Jose.
"Five years ago or so, for one reason or another, Chevrolet wasn't trying that hard," Guill, of San Jose, said. "Chevrolet has since made a major turnaround in quality."
While Toyota continues to dominate, its overall share of the California market slipped by more than 2 percentage points in the second quarter of 2013 -- from 23.4 percent in 2006 to 21.2 percent, according to the California New Car Dealers Association. Honda remained a distant second, with 13.1 percent of the market, up from 12 percent in 2006.
"It's still a market very heavily dominated by Toyota and Honda," said Stephen Smith, president of the Silicon Valley Auto Dealers Association. "But Ford has come a long way and lately it's been putting out a fantastic product."
The GM picture is more difficult to measure because of GM's changing brands.
In 2006, the automaker had the second largest share of the California market, at 15.2 percent. But GM's fleet was much larger than today and included Hummers, Pontiacs, Saturns and Saabs.
In the latest numbers released by the California New Car Dealers Association, the GM brands that were measured were down to Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.
Chrysler's fleet also has changed as Chrysler's share of the California vehicle market has risen and fallen.
In 2006, Chrysler had 2 percent of the market but jumped to 7.5 percent in 2008 when its brands included Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. Although the Chrysler brand grew to include Fiat in 2012, its market share fell to 6.5 percent. This year, Chrysler's market share has dropped to 5.4 percent.
Mike Luner, the general manager of Capitol Chevrolet, used to rely on trucks to drive 80 percent of his sales. Now nearly 70 percent of his sales come from Chevrolet cars, especially the hybrid Chevrolet Volt, which gets an advertised 98 mpg.
Capitol Chevrolet sold 420 Volts last year, more than any other Chevy dealer in the country. This year, the dealership already has sold 325 Volts through July and is on pace to break its own record.
"GM used to focus on trucks," Luner said. "Now, with the Volt, Sonic and Spark, we're right where Toyota lives."
Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager for Toyota Motor Sales, called the increased competition "a win-win for both the consumer and the industry."
Overall, he said, Toyota had its best July sales month in seven years in Northern California, which represented a 30 percent increase from the year before. He also said one in every five vehicles sold in Northern California is a Toyota.
Tim Paulus, the owner of The Ford Store, remembers the lean years for the Ford brand, especially after the recession began in 2008.
"Honestly, we just weren't as competitive in the car section," Paulus said. "In Northern California people who loved their Toyotas and Hondas wouldn't give us a chance. Now it's very exciting."
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