2013: The Year of the Truck for Detroit

The F Series has been the best-selling truck for 37 straight years and it has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 32 years running.

While there was undoubtedly the popping of champagne corks in Dearborn, Detroit and Auburn Hills when the sales results for 2013 came in, I would like to suggest that it would have been more appropriate for kegs to be tapped because 2013, for the Detroit Three, was easily the Year of the Truck.

Consider: Ram pickup sales were 355,673, a 21% gain over 2012.  The Durango, presumably ably abetted by Ron Burgundy, had a 43% sales rise, with 60,727 delivered in 2012.

While “truck” is a strong word for a “crossover,” arguably crossovers are more truck-like (the higher H-point and ostensible utility).  Buick has become more of a truck brand, as it sold 60,534 Enclaves and 31,956 Encores, or a total 92,490, which is admittedly less than the 113,010 cars it sold, but if you take into account the fact that it took three cars to sell just 20,520 more units, the fact that the Enclave is by far the best-selling vehicle in the lineup (#2 is the LaCrosse at 48,798, but that’s down 14.5% from 2012 while the Enclave is up 6.8%) certainly underscores the importance of things that aren’t cars at Buick.

Over at Chevy, the Equinox outsold the Malibu (238,192 to 200,594) and the Express was only slightly bested by the Camaro (79,087 vs. 80,567).  Think about it: You know what a Camaro is.  Could you pick an Express out of a parking lot?  Silverado was up 14.8% to 480,414; Suburban sales rose 6.5% to 51,260; and long in the proverbial tooth though it may be, the Tahoe was up 21.2%, to 83,502.

It goes without saying that GMC is all about trucks.  That division’s sales were up 8.9%, to 450,901 units.  That means that it outsold Cadillac (182,543) and Buick (205,509) combined (388,052).  Professional grade, indeed.

And it should come as little surprise that over at Ford, car sales were up 12%, but utilities gained 13% and trucks 17%.  The F Series has been the best-selling truck for 37 straight years and it has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 32 years running.

To put the power of F Series in perspective: in 2013, 763,402 F Series were delivered.  The total number of Ford-brand cars sold in 2013: 793,279.  That’s a difference of just 29,877 units.

If we look at all of Ford (i.e., including Lincoln), it is interesting to note that the company sold 836,433 cars in 2013, 720,342 utilities and 937,143 trucks.  If we go back to the truck-like nature of utilities, that would be a total of 1,657,485 truck-like units.

As we enter into 2014, here’s hoping that the Detroit Three are damn good at flexible manufacturing.  Should something go awry as regards gasoline pricing and the sales of trucks and large utilities go south, there could be some serious problems come the 2014 numbers.  Sure, the truck and powertrain engineers have done fantastic jobs at improving the fuel efficiency numbers for their offerings, but clearly the kinds of numbers that were racked up in 2013 indicate that there is a not-insignificant number of what might be considered “discretionary” buyers in the truck market (i.e., people who really don’t need a pickup), and they are the first to abandon the segment when gas prices begin to bump that $4.00 mark.