US Pickup Truck Market: On the rebound

Full-size pickups pick up steam; compact options diminish



US Pickup Truck Sales and Market Share
Source: MarkLines and Industry Sources

 The US pickup market is experiencing a slow but steady recovery from the market lows experienced in 2009. Much of this growth is spurred by the recovering housing market as workers in construction and related industries replace aging pickups for new ones. The general market economy is also providing a boost to sales as small businesses replace or add to their fleets. However, the overall market share for pickups hasn't recovered to the levels seen in 2005 when they made up 18.8% of sales. One reason is that the number of individuals who purchased pickups for personal use has declined, especially during the recessionary period when consumers either delayed expensive purchases or opted for more cost effective vehicles. However, so far in 2013, the pickup segment ticked up slightly to 13.7 percent of overall light vehicle sales.

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Pickup truck sales slowly rebound as economy improves

 Pickup truck sales have fared much worse than the overall light vehicle market in the US since 2005. Over this period, the sale of pickups declined by (39.2) percent, while the average for the entire light vehicle market declined by (14.5) percent. However, sales have been increasing at approximately the same rate as the overall market since the low-point in 2009. In 2013, pickup truck sales are up 14.2 percent over the same period last year, outpacing the general market which grew by only 8.1 percent year-over-year.

Pickup Sales in the US

Model 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2005
- 12
Full-Size Pickups
Ford F-Series 901,463 796,039 690,589 515,513 413,625 528,349 584,917 645,316 (28.4%) 463,733 559,506 20.7%
GM Chevrolet Silverado 705,980 636,069 618,257 465,065 316,544 370,135 415,130 418,312 (40.7%) 298,200 360,775 21.0%
Dodge/ Ram Pickup 400,948 364,177 358,295 245,840 177,268 199,652 244,763 293,363 (26.8%) 213,593 262,787 23.0%
GM GMC Sierra 229,488 210,736 208,243 168,544 111,842 129,794 149,170 157,185 (31.5%) 112,181 135,670 20.9%
Toyota Tundra 126,529 124,508 196,555 137,249 79,385 93,309 82,908 101,621 (19.7%) 74,972 81,821 9.1%
Nissan Titan 86,945 72,192 65,746 34,053 19,042 23,416 21,994 21,576 (75.2%) 16,406 12,243 (25.4%)
GM Chevrolet Avalanche 63,186 57,076 55,550 35,003 16,432 20,515 20,088 23,995 (62.0%) 17,149 15,618 (8.9%)
Total Full-Size Pickups 2,514,539 2,260,797 2,193,235 1,601,267 1,134,138 1,365,170 1,518,970 1,661,368 (33.9%) 1,196,234 1,428,420 19.4%
Compact Pickups
Toyota Tacoma 168,831 178,351 173,238 144,655 111,824 106,198 110,705 141,365 (16.3%) 102,872 121,772 18.4%
Nissan Frontier 72,838 77,510 64,397 44,997 28,415 40,427 51,700 55,435 (23.9%) 44,814 46,181 3.1%
Honda Ridgeline 42,593 50,193 42,795 33,875 16,464 16,142 9,759 14,068 (67.0%) 10,229 13,568 32.6%
GM Chevrolet Colorado 128,359 93,876 75,716 54,346 32,413 24,642 31,026 36,840 (71.3%) 32,608 3,375 (89.6%)
Ford Ranger 120,958 92,420 72,711 65,872 55,600 55,364 70,832 19,366 (84.0%) 19,146 - (100.0%)
GM GMC Canyon 34,845 23,979 20,888 14,974 10,107 7,992 9,590 8,735 (74.9%) 7,618 918 (87.9%)
Dodge Dakota 104,051 76,098 50,702 26,044 10,690 13,047 12,156 490 (99.5%) 488 - (100.0%)
Total Compact Pickups 672,475 592,427 500,447 384,763 265,513 263,812 295,768 276,299 (58.9%) 217,775 185,814 (14.7%)
All Pickups 3,187,014 2,853,224 2,693,682 1,986,030 1,399,651 1,628,982 1,814,738 1,937,667 (39.2%) 1,414,009 1,614,234 14.2%
All Cars / Light Trucks 16,958,945 16,526,430 16,105,177 13,202,832 10,408,312 11,559,156 12,734,443 14,494,798 (14.5%) 10,900,067 11,787,351 8.1%

Source: MarkLines and Industry Sources
Note: Analysis does not include small volume discontinued models such as the Chevrolet SSR, Mazda B-Series, Mitsubishi Raider, or Suzuki Equator.

 Recent growth is being spurred by the sales of full-size pickups. These vehicles have seen a significant increase of 19.4 percent in the first nine months of 2013, while compact pickups have declined (-14.7) percent over the same period. There are many factors contributing to this. A strong housing market and a steadily recovering US economy are contributing to overall growth in construction and related industries. This has led to strong demand from traditional pickup customers who had previously delayed their purchases.


U.S. Retail Gasoline Prices
*Through October 28, 2013
Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency: Weekly U.S. Regular All Formulations Retail Gasoline Prices (Dollars per Gallon)

 Also contributing to growth in the full-size pickup segment is demand from individual consumers. US OEMs have largely discontinued producing compact pickups in favor of higher margin full-size trucks. This is causing individual consumers who want the utility of a pickup truck, especially those who are loyal to US brands, to consider full-size options. Factors encouraging this demand include relatively low interest rates offered by lending institutions and stabilizing employment for customers who can once again afford to commit to a new purchase. Also, the price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline has remained steady since 2011. As truck consumers are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in gas prices, recent stability has brought many back into the showroom.



Ford, GM, Chrysler rekindle old rivalries

US: Share of Full-size Pickup Market by OEM
Source: MarkLines and Industry Sources
Market share data include light-vehicles only

 The competition among the traditional leaders in full-size pickup sales is heating up. US brands under Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are stepping up their efforts to capture as much of the market as possible. Sales of pickups represent higher profit margins, generally USD 10,000 or more per unit according to analysts. This makes the competition particularly fierce among these old rivals. This is expected to accelerate further as GM introduces new heavy-duty versions of the Sierra and Silverado in 2015. GM estimates that about one-quarter of overall pickup sales are heavy-duty versions.

 Ford, who has a very loyal pickup customer base, has seen its F-series market share steadily increase since the introduction of the last major redesign in 2008. After overtaking GM in this segment in 2010, the company has managed to fend off threats to its market share through the first 9 months of 2013. However, with GM's introduction of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in spring 2013, and Ford's next pickup truck redesign not due out until 2014, it is unclear if the company can maintain its recent gains without offering incentives to encourage sales of its older trucks.

 In addition to Ford's impressive gain of 3.3 percentage points since 2005, Ram trucks have seen resurgence under Fiat ownership. Formerly known as the "Dodge Ram", Ram trucks have increased market share to 18.4 percent from a low of 14.6 percent in 2010. Building on product improvements and new derivatives, the brand has benefitted from receiving recognition as the 2013 North American Truck of the Year, an award given each year by automotive journalists.

 In contrast to Ford and Ram's success, GM's steady market share decline coincides with its fall into bankruptcy. During this period, some buyers who were dissatisfied with the government "bailout" of GM switched to Ford. The company also discontinued the Chevrolet Avalanche, focusing efforts instead on marketing the Silverado model. Declining sales of the Avalanche, which are expected to finally wind down in 2013, have further contributed to GM's decline. Now that its market share has leveled off, the company hopes to gain back market share with its recently redesigned models.

 The other significant decline came at the expense of the Japanese OEMs. Combined, the shares of the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan have dropped 1.9 percentage points in the full-size pickup category since 2005. These brands have struggled to gain the confidence of American buyers who are very loyal to US brands, and many of these models haven't had significant redesigns for many years. For example, the Tundra's last overhaul was in 2006 and the Titan's was in 2003.



Japanese OEMs capture compact pickup sales; US abandons segment

US: Compact Pickup Truck Sales
Source: MarkLines and Industry Sources

 All three major US OEMs have phased out their offerings in the compact pickup truck segment in the US. Declining demand for vehicles in this segment and low profit margins have contributed to these decisions. Despite losing share in the full-size segment, Japanese pickup truck makers are benefitting from this exit from the compact segment. The Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline all saw an uptick in sales in 2012 and are on pace to improve over last year's results based on sales through September 2013.

 Although GM has discontinued the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon compact pickups, in August 2013, Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann announced the return of these brands to the US market in 2014. Mr. Ammann stated that there is opportunity to satisfy an unmet need for people who don't want a full-size pickup. He also believes that with the right vehicle, the overall segment can expand. However, the company plans to make these a bit larger than the vehicles they replace, thereby re-introducing them as mid-size pickups. The Colorado will be marketed as a sport truck and the Canyon will adhere to its "professional grade" brand characteristic.



Vast range of trim levels offer diverse options for truck buyers

 Vehicle manufacturers offer a wide range of options in the pickup truck segment. These are meant to satisfy the specific needs and driving habits of these consumers. The key parameters that are typically offered include the following:

  * Drivetrain: Two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive
  * Engine Size: V-6 or V-8 engines
  * Cab Style: Regular cab, crew cab and other cab options
  * Bed Size: Short bed, standard bed or long bed
  * Trim Level: These range from basic to high-end

 Combining all these options into different packages for consumers can often lead to overwhelming number of choices. For example, Ford offers nearly 70 styles for the F-150 with the base manufacturer's suggested retail price ranging from USD 24,215 to USD 53,595. Ram offers even more with over 75 styles. GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra each offer over 25 style options. The Honda Ridgeline offers the fewest with about a half-dozen options as it only offers the truck with 4WD, a crew cab and a V-6 engine.

 Below is a sampling of vehicle options for the base level truck and the higher-end levels.

Base Model Specifications
Vehicle Name Ford F-150 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 GMC Sierra 1500 Ram 1500 Toyota Tundra Nissan Titan
Version / Trim Level 2WD Reg Cab 126" XL 2WD Reg Cab 119.0" Work Truck (1WT) 2WD Regular Cab 119.0" Sierra 2WD Reg Cab 120.5" Tradesman Reg Cab LB 4.0L V-6 SR (GS) 2WD King Cab SWB S
Base MSRP USD 24,215 USD 25,575 USD 26,075 USD 24,385 USD 25,920 USD 29,270
Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive Rear Wheel Drive Rear Wheel Drive Rear Wheel Drive Rear Wheel Drive Rear Wheel Drive
Cab Style Regular Cab Regular Cab Regular Cab Regular Cab Regular Cab Extended Cab
Bed Style Standard Bed Standard Bed Standard Bed Standard Bed Long Bed Standard Bed
Engine V-6, 3.7 L/228 cu in. V-6, 4.3L/262 cu in. V-6, 4.3L/262 cu in. V-6, 3.6 L/220 cu in. V-6, 4.0 L/241 cu in. V-8, 5.6 L/339 cu in.
Horsepower 302 @ 6500 RPM 285 @ 5300 RPM 285 @ 5300 RPM 305 @ 6350 RPM 270 @ 5600 RPM 317 @ 5200 RPM
Torque 278 @ 4000 RPM 305 @ 3900 RPM 305 @ 3900 RPM 269 @ 4800 RPM 278 @ 4400 RPM 385 @ 3400 RPM
Transmission 6-Speed Automatic 6-Speed Automatic 6-Speed Automatic 8-Speed Automatic 5-Speed Automatic 5-Speed Automatic
MPG City/Hwy/Com. 17 / 23 / 19 mpg 18 / 24 / 20 mpg 18 / 24 / 20 mpg 17 / 25 / 20 mpg 16 / 20 / 17 mpg 13 / 18 / 15 mpg
Passenger / Doors 3 / 2 3 / 2 3 / 2 3 / 2 3 / 2 6 / 4
GVW* Rating Cap (lbs) 6450 6500 6500 6025 6400 7000
Overall L x W x H (in) 213.2 x 79.2 x 74.8 205.6 x 80.0 x 74.0 205.6 x 80.0 x 74.0 N/A209.0 x 79.4 x 74.6 228.9 x 79.9 x 75.8 224.6 x 79.5 x 74.6
Wheelbase (in) 126.0 119.0 119.0 120.0 145.7 139.8
Cargo Box L x W (in) 78.0 x 65.2 78.9 x 64.6 78.9 x 64.6 76.3 x 66.4 97.6 x 66.4 79.1 x 63.8
High-End Trim Levels and Specifications
Vehicle Name Ford F-150 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 GMC Sierra 1500 Ram 1500 Toyota Tundra Nissan Titan
Version / Trim Level 4WD SuperCrew 157" Platinum 4WD Crew Cab 153.0" LTZ (w/1LZ) 4WD Crew Cab 153.0" Denali 4WD Crew Cab 149" Longhorn CrewMax 5.7L V-8 FFV Platinum 4WD Crew Cab SWB SL
Base MSRP USD 50,815 USD 44,670 USD 50,265 USD 49,215 USD 47,320 USD 43,190
Drivetrain Four Wheel Drive Four Wheel Drive Four Wheel Drive Four Wheel Drive Four Wheel Drive Four Wheel Drive
Cab Style Crew Cab Crew Cab Crew Cab Crew Cab Crew Cab Crew Cab
Bed Style Standard Bed Standard Bed Standard Bed Standard Bed Short Bed Short Bed
Engine V-8, 5.0 L/302 cu in. V-8, 5.3L/325 cu in. V-8, 5.3L/325 cu in. V-8, 5.7 L/345 cu in. V-8, 5.7 L/346 cu in. V-8, 5.6 L/339 cu in.
Horsepower 360 @ 5500 RPM 355 @ 5600 RPM 355 @ 5600 RPM 395 @ 5600 RPM 381 @ 5600 RPM 317 @ 5200 RPM
Torque 380 @ 4250 RPM 383 @ 4100 RPM 383 @ 4100 RPM 410 @ 3950 RPM 401 @ 3600 RPM 385 @ 3400 RPM
Transmission 6-Speed Automatic 6-Speed Automatic 6-Speed Automatic 8-Speed Automatic 6-Speed Automatic 5-Speed Automatic
MPG City/Hwy/Com. 14 / 19 / 16 mpg 16 / 22 / 18 mpg 16 / 22 / 18 mpg 15 / 21 / 17 mpg 13 / 17 / 15 mpg 12 / 17 / 14 mpg
Passenger / Doors 5 / 4 6 / 4 6 / 4 5 / 4 5 / 4 5 / 4
GVW* Rating Cap (lbs) 7350 7200 7200 6800 7200 7200
Overall L x W x H (in) 231.9 x 79.2 x 75.6 239.6 x 80.0 x 73.8 239.0 x 80.0 x 73.8 N/A237.9 x 79.4 x 77.9 228.9 x 79.9 x 76.2 224.6 x 79.5 x 76.7
Wheelbase (in) 157.0 153.0 153.0 149.0 145.7 139.8
Cargo Box L x W (in) 78.0 x 65.2 78.9 x 64.6 78.9 x 64.6 76.3 x 66.4 66.7 x 66.4 67.3 x 63.8

Notes: Source: The Car Connection, and Company websites
MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggestion Retail Price) excludes destination, taxes, and title and registration fees. Prices refer to the base model, optional equipment not included.
Rounding may cause slight differences from official OEM published data



Highlights of new models and recent introductions

GM releases new versions of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra

 General Motors rolled out its redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size trucks in June 2013. The highly anticipated trucks were first introduced in December 2012 and featured at the North American Auto Show in January 2013. This is the first major redesign for these vehicles since 2006.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado
2014 Chevrolet Silverado
2014 GMC Sierra
2014 GMC Sierra

 Both trucks offer three engine options that incorporate direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation and continuously variable valve timing. The three engines are a 4.3L V-6, a 5.3L V-8, and a 6.2L V-8, all of which include cylinder deactivation to improve efficiency during light driving loads.

Engine Options for the Chevy Silverado / GMC Sierra

2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Engine Options
Powertrains 4.3L V-6 EcoTec3 (LV3) 5.3L V-8 EcoTec3 (L83) 6.2.L V-8 EcoTec3 (L86)
Displacement (cu in / cc): 262 / 4301 325 / 5328 376 / 6162
Bore & stroke (mm): 99.6 x 92 96 x 92 103.25 x 92
Block/head Aluminum/Aluminum Aluminum/Aluminum Aluminum/Aluminum
Compression ratio: 11.0:1 11.0:1 11.5:1

Source: General Motors


Ford hints at future technology and design with Atlas concept

 Not to be outdone, Ford introduced the "Atlas" concept at the North American International Auto Show in January 2013. This vehicle is expected to showcase technologies and designs for next generation F-150. The design will be developed on the new P552 platform. Production is expected to start in July 2014. Production of the outgoing model will continue for 6 months after production of the new model begins.

2015 Ford Atlas Concept
2015 Ford Atlas Concept
2015 Ford Atlas Concept
2015 Ford Atlas Concept

 Ford continues to seek ways to improve fuel economy in its pickups and SUVs. Among some of the gas-saving features shown on the Atlas are a retractable spoiler underneath the front bumper, "active grille shutters" behind the grille and "active wheel shutters" between the wheel spokes. These shut automatically to increase fuel economy at higher speeds. The sides also include power running boards that retract against the truck while moving to further enhance aerodynamics.

 A significant advancement in the pickup market came with Ford's introduction of the EcoBoost engine. Ford gambled that it could market a smaller, gas efficient engine in a segment that traditionally favored large engines for truck consumers particularly concerned about gasoline prices. Ford uses high pressure direct injection, turbo power, and advanced powertrain controls to get up to 20% better fuel economy and 15% lower CO2 emissions from its conventional gasoline engines. The gamble seems to have worked, further contributing to the company's gain in market share, particularly over GM.

Engine choices for the Ford F-150

2014 F-150 Engine Options Specifications
Powertrains 3.7L V-6 5.0L V-8 6.2L V-8 3.5L EcoBoost
Block/head Aluminum/Aluminum Aluminum/Aluminum Cast iron/Aluminum Aluminum/Aluminum
Bore x stroke 3.76 x 3.45 in. 3.63 x 3.65 in. 4.02 x 3.74 in. 3.64 x 3.45 in.
Displacement 226 cu. in. 302 cu. in. 379 cu. in. 214 cu. in.
Compression ratio 10.5:1 10.5:1 9.8:1 10.0:1
Horsepower 302 @ 6,500 rpm 360 @ 5,500 rpm 411 @ 5,500 rpm 365 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque 278 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm 380 lb.-ft. @ 4,250 rpm 434 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm 420 lb.-ft. @ 2,500 rpm
Est. fuel economy 17 city/23 highway 15 city/21 highway 13 city/18 highway 16 city/22 highway
Transmission type 6-Speed automatic 6-Speed automatic 6-Speed automatic 6-Speed automatic


Ram to offer an all-new 8-speed AT diesel in its light-duty pickup

 Chrysler group has announced in February 2013 that Ram will offer a diesel-powered half-ton pickup for the 2014 model year. This is Chrysler's first use of a diesel engine in a light-duty pickup since 1978. The engine is a 3.0-liter, V-6 turbodiesel from Italian engine maker VM Motori. It will be combined with the company's 8-speed automatic transmission. The EcoDiesel engine is expected to be available at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014. This gives Ram an engine option that its competitors cannot provide.

 Other options for 2013 include a 3.6-liter V-6, a 4.7-liter V-8 or a 5.7-liter V-8 gasoline engine. An 8-speed automatic transmission, available through a supply agreement with ZF Friedrichshafen of Germany has been available since the introduction of the 2013 model. This has forced GM and Ford to announce a partnership to develop 9- and 10-speed transmissions.


Toyota Tundra makes modest changes for 2014

 A full-size pickup truck dedicated to the North American market, Toyota's newest version of the Tundra was revealed at the Chicago Motor Show in February 2013 with new interior and exterior designs. With ambitious goals to capture market share from its American rivals, the economic downturn has forced the company to 137,000 units for the 2014 model, which is much less optimistic than its original goal of 200,000 units set in 2007.

 Rather than focusing on new sales, the company seems to be intent on increasing the transaction price and profits of the vehicles that it currently sells, particularly to loyal Toyota owners. Toyota has concentrated on adding features and options while keeping the powertrain and platform mostly intact from the previous year. The Tundra still maintains three engine options: a 4.0-liter V-6, 4.6-liter V-8 and a 5.7-liter V-8. The V-6 is still powered by a 5-speed automatic transmission while the V-8 engines are propelled by a 6-speed automatic transmission.


Toyota Tacoma leads the compact pickup segment

 The clear winner in the compact pickup segment since the exit of the US competition has been the Tacoma. While the overall segment declined by (58.9) percent from 2005-2012, the Tacoma only fell by only (16.3) percent over the same period. For the first 9 months of 2013, sales were up 18.4 percent while the overall segment continued to drop by (14.7) percent.

 Built in the same plant in San Antonio, Texas as the Tundra, the Tacoma shares its platform with the 4Runner and is based on the Hilux pickup. Options include a 2.7L 4-cylinder engine that is capable of producing 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. The 4.0L 6-cylinder engine puts out 236 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. The regular cab entry level version starts at 17,875 USD and the high-end version starts at 28,285 USD. The next-generation is scheduled to go on sale in the fall of 2014 as a 2015 model.


Nissan struggles with an aging Titan

 Nissan has not had a significant refresh of the Titan since its introduction in 2003. The aging model has had stagnant annual sales in the US of around 20,000 units since its market low in 2009, while most other models have seen a steady improvement in sales. In 2013, the model continues to suffer from a sales slump of (25.4) percent in the first 9 months when compared to the same period last year.

 Nissan announced on February 6, 2013 that it is preparing an all-new full-size pickup truck to replace the Titan which will be launched in 2015. For the next-generation pickup, Nissan is looking at broadening the product portfolio to reach more personal-use buyers while also appealing to commercial owners. Nissan is expected to add a V-6 engine and regular cab model to the product portfolio that currently only offers a V-8 engine and crew or king cab options. It will also offer a newly-developed Cummins 5.0L V-8 turbo diesel engine option.


Nissan Frontier production moves to Canton, Mississippi

 With the exit of most competitors in the compact truck segment, the Nissan Frontier has managed to gain a decent foothold in the US market. This truck appeals to people who want the functionality of a pickup without the need for the towing and payload capabilities of a full-size truck. Previously built in Smyrna, Tennessee, production was moved to the Canton, Mississippi plant at the end of 2012. Currently in its second generation, the last major update was in 2004 for the 2005 model year. The next freshened truck is expected for the 2015 model.

 The truck comes in King (extended) and Crew cab options. The entry level "S" comes with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. The 4-cylinder comes with a 5-speed manual transmission and an optional 5-speed automatic. The 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine puts out 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. The 6-cylinder engine is equipped with a standard 6-speed manual transmission with an optional automatic transmission available for most trim levels.


Honda Ridgeline "sport utility truck" future uncertain

 Honda has not made many changes to the Ridgeline since its introduction in 2005. Since its launch, the model has been produced at Honda's plant in Lincoln, Alabama. However, sales have declined steadily from a high in 2006 of over 50,000 units to just over 14,000 units in 2012. The truck was billed a "sport utility truck" (part truck, part SUV) when it first debuted due to its innovative bed storage capability. The vehicle only comes with 4WD, a crew cab and a V-6 engine.

 Although Honda denies that the vehicle will completely disappear from the US, speculation in the industry suggests that the current version will end production in September 2014 and will eventually be replaced by a new model in the first-half of 2016. This is a change from earlier speculation which forecasted that production on the current-generation truck would end in spring 2016, with the next-generation model beginning production the following week.

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