Weep not for pickup makers

October looked like a happy month for big pickups with sales rising 10 percent, outperforming a strong overall U.S. market. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find pickup manufacturers who are really, really, really happy.

The 10-month numbers for the segment look pretty good too. Sales are up 7 percent to 1.7 million units, just ahead of the market’s 6 percent gain. That’s a lot of volume for only five manufacturers, especially for the three that take 93 percent of the pie.

But let’s gloss over the normal cut and thrust of competition. Because everybody has something to smile about.

  • General Motors didn’t gain market share with its new-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, but it did boost average transaction prices on the big pickups about $3,000 by throttling back on incentives.
  • Ford Motor’s F-series sales are essentially flat this year and likely to slide as the automaker idles two plants in turn to convert to making an all-new aluminum-body 2015 model. It’s capacity constrained until next spring. But through nine months Ford has cut average F-series incentives to $3,160 from $3,542 a year earlier and the pickup’s average transaction price is $43,066, up from $40,637, TrueCar.com data show. TrueCar President John Krafcik adds: “Ford’s lost some share, but net prices are up 6 percent in the sell-down year of the best-selling nameplate in America.”
  • Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickup sales jumped 23 percent through 10 months. It has snatched the bulk of the segment’s total unit gain as its big-pickup share soared to 21.4 percent from 18.6 percent a year earlier. Sure, it’s incentive driven, but pickup margins are fat and Ram’s up 67,000 units in 10 months.
  • Toyota and Nissan combined didn’t top 100,000 big-pickup sales for the year until last month. With October sales of 990 units, the Nissan Titan is almost invisible. But Toyota and Nissan have had the compact pickup market virtually to themselves recently. Toss those into the pot and the Japanese brands have total pickup volume of nearly 300,000 through 10 months.

Whether it’s margins, market share or incremental business, everybody’s got something to brag about.

You can reach Jesse Snyder at jsnyder@crain.com -- Follow Jesse on Twitter: https://twitter.com/spartyjesse

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