Pickup trucks outsell cars for the first time, and it may not be temporary

May 5, 2020

The Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevy Silverado have been the best-selling light vehicles in America for a long time, but for the first time ever, the pickup truck segment as a whole outsold the car segment in the month of April, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. 

The difference was by a large margin, too, with pickups outselling cars by more than 17,000 units. Five years ago, cars outsold trucks by half a million units in a single month, according to Bloomberg.

State restrictions of certain businesses has led to more vehicle deliveries in middle America, where trucks are preferred, than the coastal states. Truck sales especially have been boosted by 0% financing for up to seven years, as well.

While some of this pendulum swing is attributable to effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it points to a larger trend that has seen pickup trucks evolve from workhorses to luxurious family haulers. At the same time, cars have diminished in the opinions of car shoppers. 

This could have a lasting effect on the vehicles offered by automakers. In 2014, crossovers and SUVs overtook cars as America's vehicle of choice. They now account for nearly half of all new vehicles sold, with each automaker offering an average of five different crossovers/SUVs in their lineups. Automakers are cutting production of coupes, sedans, and hatchbacks to about two models per automaker on average. The Detroit Three truckmakers—Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler—have led the charge, killing off once-popular compact and sedan models en masse. Ford killed the Fiesta, Focus, and Taurus, and now only sells the Mustang muscle car and the Fusion mid-size sedan, which is on the chopping block.

Pickups are more lucrative for automakers, and with dozens of configurations for each model, there is a truck for every preference, it seems. It's a lot easier to build one platform with interchangeable body styles and engine options than an entire car model. At least 50 different car models are still on sale, while there are only about a dozen truck models. Increasingly, full-size pickup trucks such as the best-selling Ford F-150 are complemented on either side by redesigned heavy-duty work trucks and smaller mid-size pickups such as the Ford Ranger. 

Car lovers might encounter more trouble seeing down the road, literally and figuratively. With many factories preparing to open after weeks of closures, the truck inventory available on dealer lots is running low, The Detroit News reported. That means trucks are still in high demand, and likely will be again through the month of May, if not longer. 

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