Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pickup trucks are three of the Top Ten Selling Automobiles in the U.S.

I've written before about the Big Three Automakers bailout, and about their propensity to push pickup trucks and other high-margin vehicles on us. I think I wrote a thing or two about the "cash for clunkers" program, as well.

The Big Three are banking on our collective inability to remember things that happened more than three months ago. They continue to push pickup trucks and big SUVs on us. (Well, except for Hummer. GM finally pulled the plug on the Hummer brand after a Chinese buyer decided not to buy the division.) And although I hate to acknowledge the reality of it, the American public continue to buy pickup trucks.

Nobody seems to remember what happened to gasoline prices and truck/SUV sales in the summer of 2008: gas prices went way up, and truck/SUV sales went way down. Or perhaps they do remember, but either they don't care, or they have convinced themselves that it won't happen again. Hey, people! Summer's only three months away. Gasoline prices will jump again!

Pickups are especially prevalent here in the American West. Sometimes during my commute, I will count the number of pickups vs. SUVs vs. normal cars at an intersection in town. I'm amazed at the margin by which pickups outnumber normal cars, and SUVs outnumber both.

Okay, I would enjoy owning a pickup truck -- but I'm not willing to give up my commuter car for it. A pickup truck has its place, but it's not in the driveway or garage of a suburban home or on the dry, paved roads between home and work -- which is where most of them in this part of the American west spend most of their time.

And it's not necessarily in the mountains, either. In September 2008, I drove my little Saturn SL2 up a steep, rutted, gully-washed, mining road in the Rockies, to get to the Grays and Torreys Peak trailhead on the Continental Divide. I drove past a huge line of 4WD PUs and SUVs, all waiting for some brave soul to show them how to negotiate the road. After I went past, they all pulled in behind me and followed me up to the trailhead. After we had parked, several of the drivers approached me and told me that I was an inspiration to them: they weren't sure they could make it up the road until they watched me do it.

As for snow, well ... the missus and I still remember fondly a 60-mile drive to Denver in a snowstorm, when we counted 18 pickups, Jeeps and other 4WD vehicles -- and only 2 (two!) normal cars -- that had slid or spun off the interstate highway.

Executives and employees at the Big Three in Detroit have a derisive term for all of these pickup trucks they're selling: "air haulers." And I do mean derisive. They're glad to take your money, knowing full well that for 360 days out of the year, the bed of your pickup truck won't hold anything that couldn't fit into the trunk of a (smaller, cheaper, and more economical) Civic, Corolla, or even Impala.

Here is a list of the top ten selling automobiles in the United States in 2009, according to Reuters:

Rank Make & Model 2009 Sales 2008 Sales 2008 Rank % Change
1 Ford F-Series pickup 334,922 436,022 1 -23.2
2 Toyota Camry 285,069 379,270 3 -24.8
3 Chevrolet Silverado pickup 261,142 402,191 2 -35.1
4 Honda Accord 244,579 333,011 6 -26.6
5 Toyota Corolla 240,755 307,071 4 -21.6
6 Honda Civic 223,751 304,297 8 -26.5
7 Nissan Altima 169,435 241,529 9 -29.8
8 Honda CR-V 158,573 171,193 11 -7.4
9 Dodge Ram pickup 155,467 213,684 5 -27.2
10 Ford Fusion 148,045 128,381 20 +15.3

(I swiped the table from

Pickup trucks claim three of the top 10 slots, and two of the top 3 slots. Surprisingly, only one of the top 10 is an SUV, and it's not even a domestic SUV: the Honda CR-V. Japan's own Big Three have six of the top ten slots: three for Honda, two for Toyota, and one for Nissan. The only domestic non-truck vehicle that made the top 10 was the redesigned Ford Fusion, whose sudden rise in popularity vaulted it from 20th place to 10th place.

Now, I have some good friends who really do haul stuff in their pickup trucks, and they really do need their four-wheel-drive to get to where they're going. I say more power to them. One could even call them "legitimate" pickup truck owners. One of my friends has a beautiful old Dodge pickup. Most of the time, he uses it to haul old Dodge pickup truck parts. Like my dad said once, I'll buy a pickup truck when I have something to haul around in it.

1 comment:

Zyzmog said...

For anybody who cares, here are vehicles 11 through 20, according to Reuters:

11 Chevrolet Impala
12 Ford Escape
13 Ford Focus
14 Chevrolet Malibu
15 Toyota RAV4
16 Toyota Prius
17 Hyundai Sonata
18 Hyundai Elantra
19 GMC Sierra P/U
20 Chevrolet Cobalt

Only one SUV, and one more pickup. Three Chevrolet, two Ford, two more Toyota, and two more Hyundai. I think I'll write about Hyundai cars in a future entry.