In a few categories, 2001 is still a horse race

SALES TALES
The monthly sales report is a gold mine for the lover of automotive facts and figures. Every number has a story to tell. Here are some of those stories. By John K. Teahen Jr.

Pickup players

How the pickup sales race looked after 11 months of 2001
  GENERAL MOTORS FORD MOTOR CO.
BIG PICKUPS
Chevy Silverado 650,523  
GMC Sierra 191,225  
Ford F series   827,319
Total 841,748 827,319
COMPACT PICKUPS
Chevy S10/T10 150,139  
GMC Sonoma 38,585  
Ford Ranger   256,488
Total 188,724 256,488
Grand totals 1,030,472 1,083,087
Source: Automotive News Data Center

In about 20 days, the watching and the wondering will be over. The 2001 sales results will have been tabulated, and the "experts" will know just how good - or how bad - their year-ago guesses were.

What will the numbers show?

Racing to the wire

Most of the 2001 sales supremacy contests have been decided. But a

few categories will make things interesting during the final month of the year.

In the premium sport-utility class, the Lincoln Navigator led the Cadillac Escalade by 945 sales at the end of November. But the Escalade beat the Navigator by 1,713 deliveries in November. A similar performance this month will make the Escalade the best seller in that segment.

In what is perceived as the luxury class, Lexus is the apparent champion. On Nov. 30, it had counted 201,780 sales to BMW's 194,713. The luxury class is a tricky one. Many of the vehicles sold by Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and Lincoln are not luxury class from a price standpoint, but all of each brand's sales are lumped together in the sales column.

But the pickup competition is the most interesting as the year draws to a close. In big pickups, it's General Motors by a slender margin over Ford Motor Co. Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra combined had 841,748 sales through November; the Ford F series had 827,319.

But when compact pickups are added in, the total score becomes Ford 1,083,807; GM, 1,030,472. The compact Ford Ranger has outsold the Chevrolet S10/T10 and GMC Sonoma combined by more than 67,000 units.

We'll soon know

U.S. sales in 2001 certainly will be more than 16 million. A lot of prognosticators were unsure of that earlier in the year.

Also, 16.5 million is a cinch; only 636,836 December sales are needed to reach that total. December isn't the greatest month of the year - dealers say it's hard to compete with Santa Claus - but it hasn't been below 636,000 in a long, long, time.

How about 17 million? The odds are good, but don't bet the farm on it. To reach 17 million for the year, December must produce 1,136,836 sales of new cars and light trucks; last year's total was 1,244,172.

In six of the past 12 years, December sales have topped the necessary 1,136,836. But, on the other hand, in six of the past 12 years, December sales have fallen short of 1,136,836.

The record total for a year is 17,410,144 in 2000; 17 million would be second only to that.

Climbing through 2001

For the first 11 months of this year, Hyundai (up 41.9 percent) and Kia (up 41.2 percent) are by far the biggest sales gainers from a percentage standpoint.

But several other makes also have made significant advances this year, although they cannot match the Koreans' rate of travel.

Other winners include Acura, up 20.7 percent on the strength of the MDX sport-utility; BMW, up 15.4 percent; Lexus, 9.1 percent; Chrysler, 8.7 percent; Subaru, 8 percent; and Toyota, 7.3 percent.

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