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Truck Market Is Not Dead

Conventional wisdom tells us that the light truck market died several years ago. But did it? Let's look at some numbers and see. In some cases, it is all in how you look at the data that makes all the difference in what it says.

First let's narrow the topic a little.

When we talk about light trucks we typically include pickup trucks, SUVs, CUVs and vans. Year-to-date through February 2010 light-vehicle sales are up 9.9% over the same period in 2009. Against that backdrop we find

SUVs -13.23%
Vans -13.05%
Pickups -1.64%
CUVs +21.73%

For the last ten years or so, pickups have been the real bread and butter for companies targeting the light-truck market. So we will concentrate more on pickup trucks. As we dig a little deeper we find that the real decrease in sales so far this year is with midsize and luxury pickups, and not the fullsize. Fullsize pickups are down only 0.7% against 2009 sales.

Even so, there is no denying that pickup truck sales have decreased. In 2004, there were 2.327 million pickups sold in the US. By 2009, that number had gone down to 1.273 million-nearly half as many.

But if we look at the data a little differently...


In 2004, when pickup truck sales peaked they represented 13.76% of all new vehicles sold that year. Fast forward to 2009 and pickups represent 12.12% of all new vehicles sold. We might expect the market share to be more like half what it was in 2004, but it isn't.

Pickups are maintaining their market share in a down market for new vehicle sales. So far this year, pickups account for 12.72% of all new vehicles sold. If the trend continues through the end of the year, pickup trucks will have actually increased their market share.

In reality, the parts of the light truck market that died were the SUV and van segments.

Up until 2000 there were more pickups sold in the US than SUVs. In 2000 with 3.4 million units sold, SUVs surged ahead of pickup trucks and didn't look back for 5 years. The fall began in 2005 when they came under a lot of criticism and began their double digit annual decreases. Where SUVs once accounted for a substantial portion of new vehicle sales, so far this year they contribute only 7.6% of the total.
In the 1990s vans typically represented 27% to 30% of new vehicle sales. As we moved into the 21st century, their market share quickly dropped to less than 16%. For vans the real demise started in 2006, and so far this year, they account for less than 5% of new vehicles sold in the US.

CUVs are considered by many not to be real trucks. Based on car platforms they do not have the towing or working capacities of pickups and SUVs. But by definition they are trucks. Pretty much since the crossovers were launched, they have been gaining sales. So far this year CUV sales are up 21.73% over 2009, and they now represent nearly 23% of all new vehicles sold in the US.

So if you look at the market share maintenance of pickups and the increased sales of CUVs, there is a question as to the demise of the light truck market.