- Pickup-truck sales surpassed those of passenger cars in April, according to data from Motor Intelligence.
- Zero-percent-interest loans, offered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a drop in passenger car sales, helped push pickups past cars.
- In the first quarter of 2020, pickups and SUVs were a bright spot for Detroit automakers while much of the rest of their lineups saw sales slumps.
Forget saving the manuals, now it may be time to save the cars: Pickup sales surpassed those of passenger cars this past month for the first time ever, according to data from Motor Intelligence.
Pickup sales trailed those of passenger cars by around a half a million units in recent decades, but beginning in 2014, the gap began to narrow. The trend hasn’t gone unnoticed; Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler have all cut their smaller offerings in favor of SUVs and pickups, especially as larger vehicles provide a bigger profit.
Attractive incentives and the right buyers staying in the market—in addition to a dramatic drop in passenger-vehicle sales—have all helped fuel the shift. Across the industry, zero percent interest on loans as long as seven years have become standard and also contributed to increased purchases of pickups.
“Cox Automotive data shows Middle America, with household incomes of $50,000 to $99,000, was the segment of buyers who stayed in-market mostly for new pickup trucks and SUVs, while upper- and lower-income buyers shied away,” Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst at Autotrader, said in a note. “The middle-class buyers were driven into the market by low- to no-interest financing for long terms, up to 84 months, deferment of first payments, and other payment protection plans.”
Analysis by Edmunds found that zero-percent-financing deals accounted for 25.8 percent of financed purchases in April, a jump from 4.7 percent in March and 3.6 percent in February. Trucks made up a significant portion of those zero-interest loans.
“Just over one out of every five trucks sold had zero-percent financing, and due to large volumes of trucks sold, almost one out of every three zero-percent finance deals were from a truck,” Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds, told C/D in an email.
Pickups were a bright spot for GM and FCA through the first quarter of the year, as they were some of the few models in their product lineups to see year-over-year sales gains. For GM, pickups surged to make up nearly a third of their total sales, up around 10 percent from a year ago; specifically, the Chevy Silverado saw sales jump 26.6 percent. Ford, the long-standing leader in the pickup wars, saw sales of the F-150 decline last quarter but cited timing of fleet sales as well as the COVID-19 pandemic for the drop.
Nonetheless, pickup sales have surged as factories across the country have sat idle for well over a month now. Automotive News reported that the supply glut has led to thin inventories of pickups on dealer lots across the country, leaving many concerned that there will soon be a shortage of pickups to sell.