Trust the 'experts': 16.8 million

SALES TALES
John K. Teahen Jr. is the senior editor of Automotive News
Trucks edge up
Market shares in U.S., cars vs. light trucks, 1997-2001
  CARS LIGHT TRUCKS
1997 54.7 45.3
1998 52.5 47.5
1999 51.6 48.4
2000 51.7 48.3
2001 (10 mos.) 51.2 48.8
Source: Automotive News Data Center

Guessing game

It's never too early to estimate how many cars and light trucks will be sold in the calendar year, so I asked four of my colleagues to help me with the task.

After all, why should I take all the blame for a lousy guess?

I asked them how many new vehicles will be sold this year. They knew that 7.4 million cars and 7.1 million light trucks (total: 14.5 million) were sold in the first 10 months of 2001 and that last year's results were 9.0 million cars and 8.4 million trucks for a record aggregate of 17.4 million.

What more did they need to know?

Here are their prognostications:

Edward Lapham, editor: 8,560,000 cars and 8,240,000 trucks. Total, 16,800,000.

Anne Wright Curtis, assistant managing editor, data services, and chief statistician: 8,560,000 cars and 8,193,000 trucks. Total, 16,753,000.

Rick Kranz, product editor: 8,632,000 cars and 8,225,000 trucks. Total: 16,857,000.

Jim Henry, staff reporter and author of the monthly sales analysis: 8,272,330 cars and 8,393,036 trucks. Total: 16,665,366.

My guess: 8,613,000 cars and 8,157,000 trucks. Total: 16,770,000.

The average of the five predictions is 8,527,466 cars and 8,241,607 light trucks for a total of 16,769,073.

You might want to save this column.

When the honest-to-God numbers are published next year, you can write us and say, "You guys don't know nuttin'."

Or maybe, if our guesses deserve it, you'll be kind enough to write and say, "Hey, you guys are pretty good."

Cars still reign

In the mid-1990s, the smart money was betting that trucks soon would overtake cars as the best-selling vehicles in the United States.

As often happens, the smart money wasn't so smart after all.

On a monthly basis, trucks have outsold cars only four times in the past five years.

It happened in November 1998, December 1999, November 2000 and last month.

If you're keeping score by months, the tally is: Cars, 54; trucks, 4.

Not that trucks haven't made it interesting every year. After topping 45 percent of the market in 1997, trucks rose to 47.5 percent the next year, captured 48 percent in 1999 and 2000 and had nearly 49 percent for the first 10 months of 2001.

Maybe the smart money was just a decade ahead of the game.

Ford lives!

Ford Motor Co. is having less than a banner year in unit sales and profits, but don't confide to your neighbor that Ford truck sales are in the Dumpster. They aren't.

After 10 months, Ford Division was more than 400,000 truck sales ahead of Chevrolet.

And in the important full-sized pickup class, Ford's F series was 162,000 ahead of the Chevy Silverado. Chevy is gaining, but it's still far behind Ford.

But General Motors has overtaken Ford as the leading purveyor of light trucks. For 10 months, GM was 94,000 ahead of Ford. A year ago, Ford was 105,000 ahead of GM.

Ford's Explorer, incidentally, is rebounding from the Firestone mess. After 10 months, Explorer sales were down 9 percent from last year. At the end of March, Explorer sales were down 24 percent.

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