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Pickup Sales Slump to Lowest Level in 25 Years

Posted in 4x4, auto industry, Detroit, Gas Guzzlers, Gas Prices, Newsworthy, Politics, Pop Culture, Trucks by Alex Kierstein | September 30th, 2009 | 1 Response |

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GM’s announcement that they’re closing the Pontiac (the city, not the defunct brand, in Michigan) truck plant after 37 years puts a big fat “!” at the end of news that truck sales have fallen off to their lowest point since Reagan was in office. High margin pickup trucks were the bread-n-butter of Detroit’s strategy since car buyers defected to the Japanese in the ’80s and ’90s, making up 15% of all light passenger vehicles being sold. That percentage has now dropped to 10% of the market, and unless something drastic happens those numbers are expected to slide further.


The bottom line is that the customer demographics are shifting; it’s professionals like contractors and construction workers who are becoming the bulk of the buyers, rather than the daily-driver “lifestyle” suburban buyers that flocked to conspicuously consume big trucks in the past 15 years. Case in point, the Cadillac Escalade EXT pictured above – completely worthless as a work truck, it’s all “lifestyle” all the time. And that’s why sales of the EXT have dropped off of a cliff, from a high of 13,000 units in 2002 to the insignificant 4,700 units sold last year. The days of cheap gas (and the attendant gas-powered toys) are over, at least for now, and it looks like the biggest casualty will be domestic automakers’ bottom lines.

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  1. When Henry Ford conceived his pickup truck, by installing a box behind the cab of a model “T” Ford, he had no idea what he was spawning. The F-150 was the best selling vehicle – period – only a few short years ago.

    The General also made mucho bucks from its pickup trucks. The Chevrolet Silverado was a popular choice of new vehicle, even in the midst of the so-called “clunker bill” frenzy.

    But now, we’re seeing the country go back to the roots of the pickup. Soon, we might even see the return of the smaller pickup as the Leader of the Pack, amongst trucks. Indeed, the smaller pickup became a staple of Ford, GM and Chrysler, circa the early 1980s, to meet the needs of contractors and farmers. (Prior to that, Ford brought in the Courier and GM and Chrysler rebadged other machines as their own. Datsun and Toyota were ahead of the curve, with the former bringing small pickups into the States, even in the early 1960s – collectibles those.)

    With all due respect to country singer Joe Diffie, it might be time for the pickup to become less of a fashion statement, and more of what it was meant to be, by Henry Ford: a vehicle for the Average Working Stiff.