The US-owned manufacturer hung onto number one spot in September but only by the skin of its teeth, taking 18.79 per cent of the market against Vauxhall's 18.47 per cent.
The National Franchised Dealers' Association welcomed September's increase but said the market has been 'badly and unnecessarily influenced by forced and artificial registrations stimulated by Ford'.
A Ford spokesman vigorously rejected the claims, saying: 'More than 27 per cent of sales for September were made in the last four days of the month and there is no way that could be put down to Ford alone.' Toyota doubled its market share over the period compared with the rest of the month while Fiat and Peugeot-Citroen achieved 40 per cent of their monthly sales in the last five days.
However, a detailed breakdown of the late sales surge shows that Ford was the biggest beneficiary, taking 29 per cent and 31.5 per cent of the market on the last two days of September against a monthly average of less than 19 per cent.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, while welcoming the September increase, also hinted that it might have been down to special factors, citing 'aggressive marketing campaigns by manufacturers'.
Roger King, the SMMT's director of public affairs, said: 'The motor industry in general is building from a very low base and, coupled with declining export business to EC countries, true recovery still seems a long way off.'
September's rise in sales to 136,100 left registrations for the first nine months of the year at 1.45 million - 12 per cent up on the same period in 1992.