Oil boom is a bonanza for full-sized pickups

A housing recovery would be even better

Morris: New life in the segment
Still on the mend
Full-sized pickup sales in the U.S. have yet to return to prerecession levels.
2007 ...2.1 million 2010 1.3 million
2008 ...1.6 million 2011 1.5 million
2009 ...1.1 million 2012 1.6 million
  2013 1.9 million
Source: Automotive News Data Center

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Full-sized pickup sales are rebounding nicely, thanks to the booming oil industry.

And pickups sales should get even better when homebuilders open their wallets.

"The big missing factor in this recovery so far has been the housing market," Emily Kolinski Morris, chief economist for Ford Motor Co., told an audience last week at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars here.

Morris and other industry forecasters predict a stronger performance for the segment and overall sales.

"As we look a little bit further out, we see the potential for some additional upside, particularly in full-sized pickup sales as the housing recovery eventually catches up with the rest of the economy," she said.

That outlook is good news for a number of automakers -- including Ford rival General Motors -- as Ford prepares to launch the redesigned 2015 F-150 pickup with an aluminum-intensive body.

Nissan Motor Corp. also has begun promoting a redesigned full-sized Titan pickup that will reach the market in 2015.

Pickups and new-home construction have always moved in lock step. Job site contractors rely on big pickups to haul lumber, plywood sheets and other housing materials. And the 2008 homebuilding crash knocked the life out of the truck segment.

New-home sales are on track to reach about 400,000 this year, a slight decline from last year. By comparison, new-home sales reached 1.28 million in 2005.

But the U.S. oil boom is breathing new life into the segment, Morris said. Energy industry activity and oil drilling have become a new source of truck sales.

In 2010, just 187 oil rigs were operating in the United States. This summer, there were 1,545, according to U.S. energy data.

Morris said: "This is something fairly new for us to track."

Another reason for optimism about segment growth is the age of the full-sized pickup fleet, said Itay Michaeli, industry director for Citi Investment Research & Analysis.

Michaeli said the current average age for scrapping and replacing older vehicles is between 13 and 15 years. And the full-sized segment's average age reached 13 years in 2013.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@autonews.com