updated 5/30/2007 8:16:47 AM ET 2007-05-30T12:16:47

A Ford Motor Co. official predicts that his company's overall U.S. sales will drop in May, but its retail sales to individual buyers will show a year-over-year monthly increase for the first time since October of 2006.

George Pipas, Ford's top sales analyst, told reporters Tuesday that the increase, which includes only the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, would be fueled largely by rising sales of new crossover vehicles.

He said overall sales, which include those made to rental car companies and other fleet buyers, would drop by a single-digit percentage when compared with May of last year. Ford is trying to cut low-profit sales to rental car companies, and Pipas said that would drop about 20 percent in May from the same month last year.

Pipas based his retail sales prediction on data collected through Monday night, but he would not predict the size of the increase.

"The way things are progressing, it could well be our highest level of retail sales since August of last year," when the company was trying to clear out vehicles at the end of a model year, he said.

The better retail sales results are due to rapidly rising sales of the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers, which are vehicles that can do the things a truck-based sport utility vehicle can but are more fuel efficient because they are built on car underpinnings.

The two new crossovers should help Ford's crossover sales grow 70 percent when compared with last May, when Ford, Lincoln and Mercury had only three crossovers, the Ford Escape and Freestyle and the Mercury Mariner, Pipas said.

Pipas also predicted that U.S. sales will rebound a bit from a low April, due largely to increased sales of crossovers and small cars because of high gasoline prices.

Automakers will release their May sales data on Friday. Most others do not comment until the data is released.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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