Video: Who's bigger?

By Phil LeBeau
CNBC
updated 2/13/2006 3:18:34 PM ET 2006-02-13T20:18:34

When it comes to car sales, Chevy and Ford are revving up the rhetoric.

The two automakers are both claiming they sold the most cars and trucks in the United States last year. Which one is right, and does it really matter when both companies are losing business to Asian rivals?

There’s little for the ‘Big Three’ U.S. automakers to brag about these days, so it’s not surprising that Chevy and Ford are fighting over which brand sold the most cars and trucks last year.

Chevy claims it sold over 17,083 more than Ford. But ford is saying it out-sold Chevy by 5,000. Who’s right? Actually, it’s both of them.

Ford’s numbers are from automotive consultancy R.L. Polk, which track vehicle registrations. Once those numbers showed Ford on top, the automaker called on Chevy to stop claiming it is number one.

But that’s unlikely to happen. Chevy gets its numbers from automotive data firm Ward’s Auto, which tracks sales to dealerships, and they clearly show Chevy was on top last year.

One thing neither car company will brag about is their sales in the United States, which fell last year. Chevy's sales fell 3.5 percent, while Ford's sales were down 4.8 percent according to the latest numbers from industry research firm Autodata. Rival Japanese automaker Toyota saw its sales pick up by 10.5 percent.

“I don’t know how much this gives you in terms of bragging rights,” asked Erich Merkle, senior auto analyst with the consulting firm IRN. “The fact that your sales didn’t decline as much as Ford’s — that’s kind of a weak argument.”

Does any of this really matter to car and truck buyers? At this week’s Chicago Auto Show, most of the people checking out Fords and Chevys don’t care which car company is number one.

But while it may seem trivial to car buyers, being the top selling brand is important to both Ford and Chevy — that’s why they’ll likely continue to snipe at each other. And if claiming the number one spot helps Ford or Chevy to sell a few more cars, that’s good for them. After all, these days they’ll take all the help they can get.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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