Ford Motor Co. is on track this year to pass General Motors Corp. as the nation's leading truck seller, something Ford hasn't done in a normal production year since 1935.

"Yeah, we're going to pass them this year," said Edward E. Hagenlocker, president of Ford's Automotive Operations and a former light truck product development manager.

The last time that Ford topped GM as king of the truck market was in 1970, but that was the result of a 67-day strike that crippled GM's production.

Mr. Hagenlocker said that Ford has been gaining on GM in the truck market in recent years, and so far this year is outselling GM lTC by 5 percent to 10 percent each month.

He was in Baltimore this week to promote the launch later this month of the company's newly designed Taurus sedan.

He said Ford's drive to be No. 1 in the truck market began in 1992 "when we sold 90 percent of GM's truck sales.

"In 1993 we went to 95 percent, and 1994 was about a break-even year. They beat us by a few thousand units."

According to Automotive News, an industry trade publication, Ford was leading GM in the light-truck market by 75,645 units, or 6.7 percent, during the first seven months of 1995.

Ford had 32.5 percent of the truck market at the end of July. This compared with 30.3 percent for GM.

Mr. Hagenlocker said that the other automotive companies, including Chrysler Corp., account for about one-third of the U.S. market.

Chrysler, he said, has about 18 percent of the market and the rest is shared among the foreign producers.

He said light trucks account for slightly more than 40 percent of the U.S. automotive market, due primarily to robust sales of sport utility vehicles, minivans and small pickups.

The Ford F-series full-size pickup truck has been the best-selling vehicle in the country the past 13 years.

On another aspect of the truck market, Mr. Hagenlocker said Ford is not about to give GM's plant in Baltimore a near-monopoly in the rear-wheel-drive minivan market by halting production of its Aerostar van anytime soon.

In January 1994, when Ford introduced its new front-wheel-drive Windstar minivan as a replacement for the Aerostar, industry officials said the move would be a benefit to the Baltimore plant that produces the rear-wheel drive Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans.

Ford's move would have left the the local plant as a sole producer of a mid-size, rear-drive van.

But Ford reversed its decision to phase out the Aerostar a few months later, and Mr. Hagenlocker said yesterday that it will continue producing the Aerostar as long as there is consumer demand for the van.

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