DETROIT - Trucks captured 48.25 percent of the U.S. car and light-truck market in the first half of 1999, up a fraction from 48.12 percent last year.
A brief item, but it tells one of the big stories of the 1990s in the auto industry.
If you had remarked 40 years ago that trucks would some day be on a one-to-one sales level with cars, your friends would have encased you in a straitjacket and bundled you off to the funny farm.
And with good reason. In 1960, trucks accounted for only 9.3 percent of U.S. sales. They rose to 20 percent in 1970 and then bogged down; the 1980 market share matched that of a decade earlier.
But in 1985, the truck share was nearly 29 percent. Why? The minivan had landed, courtesy of Chrysler Corp. Chrysler's minivans arrived for the 1984 model year, and that was the blast-off for truck sales.
Light trucks grew to 33 percent of the market in 1990 and stormed their way to 48 percent last year. The 1999 total was 8,208,281 - 3.3 million pickups, 3.2 million sport-utilities and 1.7 million minivans and vans.
Sport-utilities are the darlings of today's truck market. They're challenging pickups for the overall lead, and their sales total has almost doubled since 1995, when it was 1.75 million.
What does the future hold for trucks? More growth, but certainly not as explosive as that of the 1990s. It won't be long before they top car sales. Last year light trucks accounted for 61 percent of Ford's sales and 72 percent of the Chrysler group's sales. GM's number was only 48 percent, but GM promises to be at 57 percent by 2002.