Light trucks may exceed 50% of sales

Light trucks are on track to take more than half of the light-vehicle market this year.

Thanks to incentives, total light-vehicle sales of 1,328,236 in November were 7.5 percent ahead of the year-ago month. That raised year-to-date sales to 15,863,164, only 1.8 percent behind last year’s 11-month record.

“That’s certainly a bit of a surprise, given where we were at mid-year,” said Paul Ballew, General Motors executive director of market and industry analysis.

For the whole industry, light trucks made up 53.2 percent of November sales compared with 50 percent a year ago. Light trucks have exceeded 50 percent in individual months but not for a full year. Year to date, light trucks made up 49.2 percent of light-vehicle sales compared with 48.2 percent a year ago.

Another month of 50 percent-plus light-truck sales could put light trucks over 50 percent for all of 2001.

The growth in light-truck sales is a long-term trend.

In 1986, light trucks were only 28.8 percent of sales. But many of today’s most popular light trucks are based on car platforms.

After six months, 2001 light-vehicle sales were down 4.6 percent. Zero percent loans following Sept. 11 turned the market around. The Big 3 extended some 0 percent deals last month but cut back or eliminated some of the more generous offers. Still, 2001 could be the second-best year ever, Ballew said.

If December 2001 sales equal the year-ago month, the 2001 total would be about 17.1 million.

Last year’s record total was 17.4 million light vehicles, breaking the previous year’s record of 17 million. Before that, the record was 16 million in 1986.

Some November highlights:

n DaimlerChrysler sales, including Mercedes, fell 4.4 percent in November. That represents a light-vehicle market share of 14.4 percent for the month compared with 16.2 percent a year ago. “We did not elect to chase the fleet and daily rental business into the red ink barrel,” said Gary Dilts, Chrysler group senior vice president of sales.

n Ford Motor Co. brands gained 4.4 percent, including a November record for light-truck sales. The industry best seller, the Ford F-150, had a November sales record of 74,039, up 11.6 percent. That total was more than double the best-selling car for the month, the Honda Accord, at 29,316.

n GM sales gained 13 percent, but GM reduced its 0 percent deals after Nov. 18.

n Toyota Division and Lexus Division both had November sales records. Year to date, Lexus has a slim lead over BMW of North America Inc. for the lead in U.S. luxury sales.

Said Van Bussmann, senior vice president of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates and former chief economist for the Chrysler group, “Sales of trucks are a shoo-in to exceed the sale of cars this year, but most of them aren’t really trucks.”

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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