Pickup Truck Segment at a 31-Year Low

By Colin Bird  on May 10, 2011

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As high gas prices continue to rock the auto industry, pickup truck sales are taking it on the chin: Total sales as a segment are at their lowest point since 1980, according to Wards Automotive.

Six years ago, pickups were nearly twice as popular as they are today versus all vehicles sold. Full-size and small pickups made up 22.9% of all new-car sales in July 2005, instead of the 11.8% share the utility vehicles garnered last month.

The main culprits behind the drop in the popularity, besides high gas prices, include high unemployment and a lull in housing construction — those figures typically run parallel to the rise and fall of demand for pickups, Wards says.

The decline affects domestic automakers more than Japanese automakers; Korean and German automakers don’t even build pickups. Only two pickups landed on the top 10 best-sellers list for April: the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado. The Silverado, whose sales declined 0.9% for the month, fell from its typical second-place spot to fourth. When you look at the top 20 best-sellers in April, the only other truck on the list is the Ram, in 14th place, with sales up 29.4%.

Keep in mind that pickup truck sales are actually up in 2011 compared with 2010, but the increase is less than other vehicle segments — small cars, midsize cars and midsize SUVs are growing much more quickly — which is reducing the segment’s market share. Most of the drop-off in truck sales as a percentage of all vehicles comes from a lack of demand for small pickups, which haven't seen much innovation or new models since 2005 as manufacturers shifted focus to building profitable large trucks.

U.S. Pickup Segment Hits 3-Decade Low (Wards Auto)

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