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Four U.S.-market brands are tied for the longest streak of consecutive monthly year-over-year sales increases, according to Ward's data. And Subaru is not among them. Nor is Hyundai. Nor is Kia.

I mention these brands because it seems they're always in the black. Even during the black days of 2009 when the market plunged to historic lows.

Subaru, Hyundai and Kia were the only brands that reported good sales news that tumultious year.

But the brands with the most current traction -- 20 straight months of year-over-year improvement -- are Buick, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover. Yes, Land Rover.

It's not surprising to see those first three, given their aggressive product rollouts. Buick and Cadillac are charging hard with respective variants of the Regal and CTS, while Mercedes is riding the E-Class train.

But Land Rover, favorite whipping boy of third-party quality pollsters? Despite the addition of new feature-packed engines and redesigned interiors to the brand's lineup, J.D. Power gives each of its models a below-average rating for model-year '11.

And in Consumer Reports' latest rankings, only one luxury SUV scores lower than the Range Rover Sport, Land Rover's top seller. (Ironically, that other vehicle is the base-model Cadillac Escalade.)

Land Rover spokesman Stuart Schorr credits pent-up demand and the brand's cachet for intrepidness and styling, two things that have helped generate customer loyalty.

For you baseball fans out there, Hyundai is the industry's Joe Dimaggio. The Yankee Clipper holds what is regarded as the sport's unassailable record -- 56 consecutive games with at least one hit -- while Hyundai has the longest-ever streak of monthly year-over-year gains in the Ward's database: 45, recorded between 1999 and 2002.

Chrysler and Saab are tied for the second-longest streak at 42. (If you knew that, look in a mirror. There you will see a geek.)

The most total monthly hikes since 1980? Take a guess. I'll post the answer Friday.

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