DETROIT — After hitting bottom in May and June, U.S. market shares for full-sized pickups and SUVs have rebounded. But automakers aren't celebrating.
In September, full-sized pickups accounted for 14.1 percent of total U.S. light-vehicle sales, according to J.D. Power's PIN data. That's up sharply from 9.2 percent in May. Big SUVs rebounded modestly to 2.5 percent of market share in September, up from 1.9 percent in May.
But with overall industry sales slumping, even an increase in market share does not generate sales comparable to the hey-day of big trucks. Likewise, wholesale auction prices for used pickups and SUVs have perked up, but still lag behind prices from earlier this decade.
Truck sales started to sag late last year, then plunged in the spring as gasoline topped $4 a gallon. And though gasoline prices have fallen sharply since then, automakers expect higher fuel prices ahead. The future, they say, is in fuel-efficient cars and technology.
"As a company, we are looking at a future of high gasoline prices," says Yvonne Malmgren, manager of global sales and incentive communications for Chrysler LLC. "That is what we expect, and we're aligning our business plans with that idea in mind."
In fact, last week Chrysler said it will close its Newark, Del., assembly plant, which builds the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs, by Dec. 31 — a year earlier than planned. And Chrysler has announced that the next-generation Dodge Ram pickup will have a hybrid powertrain.
Other automakers are sticking to plans for small cars and technology such as hybrids, fuel-injection engines and possibly electric cars.