How much is too much? I'm talking about the number of car and light-truck models offered for sale in the United States, and I think we've just about reached the limit.
I realize that I'm whistling in the dark. The total is almost sure to go up next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.
Getting down to hard numbers, there are 1,366 models on sale in the United States today, 532 cars and 834 light trucks, an Automotive News analysis finds. That's 53 more than the 1,313 at this time last year. The 2002 count was 537 cars and 776 trucks.
I'm calling 1,366 an all-time high. Back in the 1920s, the 75-plus active manufacturers offered some 800 car models. I don't have a hard-and-fast truck figure, but I'm pretty sure it was well under 500. Remember, trucks had only about 11 percent of the U.S. market in the 1920s.
Why bother counting the number of models on the market? Well, for one thing, it's fun. And it's another way of keeping score in an industry that lives by the numbers.
From a practical standpoint, it shows where the market (or a specific make) could use a few more models, and it shows where the market is top-heavy with selections.
Suppose an executive at one of the Big 3 is toying with the idea of adding a convertible. By consulting the model-count listing, he'll find that the Big 3 have only 14 softtops in their lineups - four Chrysler Sebrings, four Ford Thunderbirds and five Ford Mustangs. General Motors has only one, and it's a big-bucks Chevrolet Corvette. The Big 3 executive - especially if he's with GM - might decide the market is ripe for a ragtop.