Ford Motor Co. finishes 2010 by surpassing car and light-truck sales benchmarks as the auto maker records a 19.5% improvement over 2009 with 1.9 million total deliveries, according to Ward’s data.

Ford Fusion mid-size car sales totaled 219,219, marking the first time a Blue Oval passenger car exceeded the 200,000-unit mark since the Taurus in 2004.

Full-year Fusion deliveries numbered 198,403 on the strength of a 27.8% jump last month, compared with like-2009. The Fusion Hybrid tally pushed the nameplate over the top with 20,816, despite flat December sales.

Ford recorded 502,187 deliveries of its core-brand F-Series fullsize pickup in 2010, according to Ward’s. The U.S. industry’s best-selling vehicle for 29 consecutive years now, the F-Series is the only nameplate to reach the half-million plateau.

Against this backdrop, the auto maker says December marked its best retail-sales month since August 2009. Retail deliveries rose 17% last month, compared with prior-year.

Fleet sales accounted for 29% of Ford’s business in December and 32% full-year, the auto maker says.

Ford is buoyed by the way California consumers responded to its core-brand Fiesta B-car, which was new for model-year ’10.

California, the nation’s largest market, accounts for less than 5% of the auto maker’s total sales, but in 2010 the Golden State snapped up about 10% of all U.S.-market Fiestas.

“For us, California is an emerging market,” says Ken Czubay, vice president-U.S. marketing, sales and service. “(Fiesta sales) results are far beyond our expectations.”

Ford expects the Fiesta will serve as a springboard for the all-new C-segment Focus, which launches at the end of the first quarter.

“It’s a game-changer for us,” Czubay says today during a conference call with journalists and industry analysts. “We believe it will really set a standard in the California market, where we’ve had a lower penetration.”

On the down side, Lincoln car sales lagged in December and full-year, 23.8% and 4.8%, respectively, compared with like-2009. And, for the first time since the mid-1980s, the Chevrolet Camaro outperformed the Ford Mustang in the muscle-car sales race.

Unfazed, Czubay notes the planned spring arrival of the ’12 Mustang Boss 302. “We’re in the Mustang business to stay,” he says.

Total Ford sales climbed 10.8% last month, compared with like-2009.

The auto maker says it finished December with 398,000 vehicles in inventory – 152,000 cars and 246,000 trucks.

emayne@wardsauto.com