Ford and General Motors post healthy year-over-year U.S. sales gains in October, setting up what portends to be a slugfest of a finish to the calendar year as the market’s two heavyweights battle for the light truck title.

Ford’s daily deliveries rose 9.0% last month to 206,874 units from 182,979 in the same period last year, according to WardsAuto data. GM sold 262,993 cars, trucks and CUVs, an 11.8% uptick in daily sales from volume of 226,819 last year.

An extra selling day vs. year-ago pulled down the year-over-year comparison on otherwise strong volumes for both automakers in a wide swath of selling segments, although the truck market remained bread-and-butter for both.

“We feel real good, a strong month,” says Mark LaNeve, vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service at Ford.

Ford’s October performance included the delivery of 144,950 light trucks, up 8% from 129,437 year-ago. As assembly plants producing the redesigned F-150 continued to build capacity in the month and fill dealer lots, volumes of the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. edged up slightly to 59,269 from 58,492.

GM also saw brisk demand for trucks. The Detroit automaker’s light truck sales grew 20.1% to 181,715 from 145,931. Included in that total were 79,642 pickups, up 13.5% from 67,689 year-ago.

“The redesign of our fullsize trucks and SUVs, and our move into the small (CUV) and midsize pickup segments were smart bets and our timing couldn’t be better with industry sales at record levels,” says Kurt McNeil, vice president-U.S. sales operations at GM.

So far this year, GM owns 21.0% of the light-truck market and Ford controls 18.5%.

But Ford today kicks off through Jan. 4 its “Friends and Neighbors” sales promotion, a straight-forward pricing tactic: “The price you see is the price you pay,” LaNeve says. He denies the program escalates incentives; instead, LaNeve claims it simply saves customers time and reduces buying complexity during a busy time of year.

GM will answer with an escalation in promotion of its “Shop-Click-Drive” program, also a pricing strategy focused on transparency.

“We’re encouraged by the reaction of our customers to that,” says GM spokesman Jim Cain.

That does not mean the last eight weeks of the year will come without the usual juicy incentives. LeNeve thinks U.S. automakers will be aggressive again this year around Black Friday, which has grown into discount mania in the final week of November.

FCA US, seller of the popular Ram large pickup, also signaled last week it plans to make a move on gaining share in the segment this year.

“We’re in a strong market but a competitive one,” LeNeve tells journalists and Wall Street analysts in a conference call to discuss October’s results. “There will be a lot of promotions and incentives.”

Both automakers continued to grow their average transaction prices last month. Ford’s rose $100 from September to $42,500 in October and expanded a whopping $2,300 compared with the same period last year. GM’s ATPs were $34,600 last month, down $130 year-over-year but up $800 year-to-date.

The industry’s seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for October finished at an estimated 18.2 million units, moving the 6-month average to 17.8 million and on track for a record year, GM says.

jamend@wardsauto.com