There aren’t many things that surprise people who follow the auto industry. As an example, take the trend of SUVs taking over spelling doom for several passenger cars on the market.
When Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart got the axe, few people complained and almost no one expressed shock. Another example is Ford F-Series trucks dominating the sales charts every year.
After nearly four decades as the best-selling vehicle line in America, it’s what you expect. However, with the auto market flattening out in 2018, it turns out F-150 and its siblings are on pace for the top sales year in history.
That performance is raising eyebrows among the most unflappable industry observers. Here’s how Ford’s storied pickup trucks are managing that feat.
Gauging the F-Series’ record pace
A July 16 report from Automotive News shed light on just how well the F-Series performed in the first half of 2018. With 451,000 sales already on the board, Ford pickups topped the January-June numbers from 2004 — the all-time record year for F-150 sales.
That mark holds significance because, Auto News points out, 52% of the truck’s annual sales come in the second half. If F-150 and the rest hold that pace, they’ll easily blow past the 939,511 moved 14 years ago.
Considering we’re not seeing anything quite like the housing bubble that preceded the Great Recession (we think), it’s amazing that sales grew 5% in a slower market. By contrast, Ram truck sales fell 7% compared to the same period in 2017.
As GM retools, Ford keeps offering more options.
To see how Ford keeps surging, it’s helpful to take a look at the full-size pickup competition. We already noted Ram’s drop-off above, and you can explain some of that to the lag involved when a redesigned model emerges. (Ram’s 2019 models reached dealerships earlier in the year.)
As for GM, the powerhouse Chevrolet Silverado actually posted double-digit gains (11%) in the first half of the year. But the expectation for a new model later in 2018 will keep it far from F-Series numbers.
GMC Sierra, moving at a feverish pace due to summer incentives, will also arrive at dealerships fully redesigned by the fall.
Meanwhile, Ford has kept the list of new features coming. That includes (among many others) the powerstroke diesel F-150 and the 10-speed transmission the pickup shares with the excellent 2018 Expedition.
Other factors in F-150’s surge
While the economy remains strong, we’ll see strong pickup sales. That’s normal because they are essential workplace tools for builders and so many other professions. When these folks go shopping, Ford F-Series models dominate in terms of brand recognition and reputation.
However, the remarkable sales stats also reflect the country’s love of big cars. It’s not only SUV sales that are booming; you can’t ignore the way truck buyers are using pickups as family vehicles. Earlier in 2018, Consumer Reports noted how nearly half of Ram pickups were used as family cars.
Cheap gas prices helped prop up that demand in recent years. As we see the price of oil rise — and a similar spike at the pump across the U.S. — it will be interesting to see if Ford breaks that truck sales record after all.