Pickup sales on uphill climb

Feb. 18, 2015
2015 shapes up to be a big year for pickup sales

Many folks are now calling 2014 the “year of the truck” and for good reason: Sales of both new and used pickups soared, growing as the year moved along.

According to data analyzed by consulting firms J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, demand for pickups also helped juice overall U.S. retail light-vehicle sales volume last December to levels not seen since 2006—some 1.3 million units. This, in turn, moved projected total retail U.S. light-vehicle sales for all of 2014 up to 14.2 million units.

Due to what’s described as “robust sales figures” posted last November and December, LMC Automotive increased its prediction for total light-vehicle sales in 2014 to reach 16.5 million units, along with another increase for this year to 17 million units.

“The prospects for auto sales to overachieve in 2015 are moving closer to reality,” stressed Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president of forecasting, in a research note penned at the end of 2014. “Economic bliss—driven by job creation, wage growth and low gas prices—may drive consumers to showrooms at a faster pace, emphasizing the notion that this recovery may not be over quite yet,” he added.

Now, it’s true that a lot can still go wrong for automotive sales—indeed, for the U.S. economy as a whole. As of right now, however, things look pretty rosy. This is where pickups come into play.

According to AutoTrader.com, two out of the top five new vehicles sold in 2014 were pickup trucks: Ford Motor’s F-150 and Chevrolet’s Silverado 1500. Pickups comprised 10 out of the top 20 new vehicles sold last year.

Things were even hotter in the used market where three out of the top five vehicles sold were pickups: Ford’s F-150 and Chevrolet’s Silverado 1500 being joined this time by the Ford F-250.  Pickups also comprised 10 out of the top 20 models on the used side of the light-vehicle market’s 2014 sales ledger, noted Michelle Krebs, AutoTrader.com’s senior analyst.

“The preponderance of large vehicles indicates an improving economy as sales of pickup trucks correlate with housing starts and construction,” she said. “Lower gas prices and many new or refreshed entries also helped boost new-truck popularity, particularly in the back half of 2014.”

And that’s before we added a spate of new models to the mix—in particular Ford’s 2015 model F-150, which shed 700 lbs. of weight due to its nearly all-aluminum body. Then there are the newly reborn midsize pickups from General Motors: the 2015 GMC Canyon and the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, which won Motor Trend’s truck-of-the-year honors for 2015. Don’t forget the Ram 1500, which garnered Motor Trend’s truck-of-the-year nod for 2014 due to its 3.0L diesel V6 engine.

The question is, though, can pickups retain their sales crown in 2015? That remains to be seen. The new-model deluge, which is no doubt helping in such king-of-the-hill efforts, won’t be stopping anytime soon as both Nissan and Toyota are rolling out new pickup designs this year.

Maybe that means 2015 will become the “year of more trucks.”  We’ll see.

Sean Kilcarr is Fleet Owner’ s senior editor. He can be reached at skilcarr@fleet­own­er.com

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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