Light Truck Sales Booming

Though retail sales for new vehicles as a whole leveled off at the end of September due to a combination of worsening economic factors, overall they continue to post positive gains compared to last year – especially in terms of light trucks, according to OEM sales figures.

GM said increased sales of crossovers and full-size pickups boosted its gains in September. Sales for GM’s full-size pickup trucks, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, rose a combined 62% in September versus the same month last year, with the Silverado selling 32,185 units (up 65.9%) and the Sierra 11,077 units (up 52.9%). Year-to-date, the Silverado recorded sales of 229,388 units (up 16.7% over the same period in 2009) with the Sierra selling 90,235 units (up 13.6%).

Chrysler said Ram Truck Brand sales of 17,854 units this September represent a 22% increase versus the same month last year, while Ram pickup truck sales of 16,887 units represented a 26% increase compared with September 2009. Chrysler added that Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck sales increased 42% last month versus September 2009.

“We will continue to build sales momentum this fall as a slate of new product begins arriving in our dealerships,” noted Fred Diaz, president and CEO for the Ram Truck Brand and Chrysler’s lead executive for U.S. sales.

Ford Motor Co. noted that sales of its F-Series truck line totaled 47,433 units last month, up 40% versus September 2009, with year-to-date figures totaling 385,879 units, up 31% compared to the same period last year. Ford added that sales of its Econoline van/wagon models rose 25% in September to 8,471 units versus the same month in 2009, with year-to-date sales reaching 83,079 units, up 24.3% over the same stretch last year.

Ford also noted that its new Transit Connect small van – launched in North America last summer – posted its highest sales rate to date in September with 3,571 units.

Even Toyota is seeing demand for its pickups growing, though it only offers gasoline engines for its models. The company said its Tundra full-size pickup recorded sales of 6,923 units in September, up 9.7% over the same month last year, while the Tacoma mid-size pickup posted sales of 8,874 units, up 18.1% percent over September 2009.

Research firm J.D. Power and Associates added that the global sales numbers for cars and light trucks in September indicate that the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) is expected to come in at approximately 11.5 million units, with fleet sales accounting for 20% of September’s sales.

“Consumers continue to grapple with high unemployment levels, a weak housing market and higher vehicle prices," said Jeff Schuster, J.D. Power’s executive director of global forecasting. “However, even with the weaker-than-expected close to September, retail volume has improved from recent levels and the recovery continues to progress slowly.”

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