DETROIT -- Business is booming at Pioneer Natural Resources Co., an oil and gas exploration company, and so is its demand for pickups.
Pioneer bought more than 250 new Ford F-Series trucks since August and is ordering 200 more.
"We're definitely going through a growth period," said Lynn Lyon, the Pioneer executive in charge of purchasing the trucks and converting them to run on the natural gas Pioneer extracts by fracking rich reserves from Texas shale fields.
"If you drive through our parking garage, you will see a lot of very nice, new, high-end Ford trucks."
Record energy production coupled with a sustained housing recovery are pushing pickup sales to the highest level in as much as eight years and driving Detroit's comeback.
U.S. automakers have gained 1.2 points of market share this year, the first time all three have gained share during the January- though-May period in at least 18 years, as sales continue on a pace for the best year since 2007.
"It's a great time to be in the truck business," said Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of U.S. sales operations.
That's an understatement: This moment may be unequaled for Detroit's automakers.
A resurgent economy with growing momentum is meeting America's best lineup of vehicles in a generation, with newly lean carmakers offering freshly redesigned high-profit pickups just as builders and oil workers need them.
Fueled by low-interest-rate car loans, light-vehicle sales have picked up every month this year. Investors who doubted the companies' recovery have been piling into the stocks starting in April.
Shares in General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat S.p.A., the majority owner of Chrysler Group, are all up more than 20 percent since March.
GM will rejoin the S&P 500 Index, another milestone of the automaker's comeback from its 2009 bankruptcy, S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC said in a statement.
"If we use our own sales as a barometer, it appears that the recovery is becoming even more broad-based," McNeil told analysts and reporters on a conference call Monday.
U.S. economic growth will accelerate to 3 percent or more in 2014 after averaging an annualized 2.1 percent during the first four years of the recovery, according to projections by forecasting firms Moody's Analytics Inc. and Macroeconomic Advisers in St. Louis.
That would be the fastest rate of expansion since at least 2005, the year before Ben Bernanke became central bank chief. Bernanke's expansive monetary policy has helped auto sales directly.
Banks reported that the most common rate for a 48- month new-car loan was 4.69 percent in February, the most-recent reporting period, according to the Federal Reserve. The rate is the lowest since the Fed began tracking the figure in 1972.
Gary Bradshaw, fund manager for Dallas-based Hodges Capital Management, last month bought 30,000 shares of Ford to add to the 150,000 he already held.
He was attracted, in part, by Ford's booming truck sales.
"You drive down the road in parts of these areas and there are so many big fracking trucks hauling water and sand that you'll get run over if you're not watching out," Bradshaw said. "Hopefully, it will all keep booming and it will be good for truck sales."
Sales of Ford's F-Series sales rose 31 percent last month, the line's best May since 2005. GM's Chevrolet Silverado pickup jumped 25 percent and Chrysler's Ram truck rose 22 percent. Now arriving in showrooms is a redesigned Chevy Silverado that gets 23 miles (37 kilometers) per gallon on the highway.
"The strength of the Detroit Three in pickup trucks remains," said Mike Jackson, chief executive officer of AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. auto retailer. "The Asians put a bull's eye on that segment. They made a tremendous investment and effort to break in and change the dynamics of the segment, as they did in many others, and the Detroit Three did a great job of defending their turf."
Pickup profits, which analysts say are as much as $10,000 per truck, are funding the Detroit carmakers' overhaul of their entire lineup.
They're spending those riches to improve styling, technology and fuel economy on models such as the Ford Fusion family car and the Cadillac ATS sports sedan.
Ford's F-Series accounted for 90 percent of its global auto profits last year, while GM's big pickups and SUV derivatives generated two-thirds of worldwide earnings, according to Adam Jonas, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. Booming truck sales bode well for second-quarter earnings.
"Trucks are what underwrite better and more competitive products from entry-level vehicles to move-up models," said Kevin Tynan, auto analyst with Bloomberg Industries. "It all ties together."
Ford and Chrysler each exceeded forecasts for their sales gains in May, while GM and Toyota Motor Corp. fell short.
Combined, GM, Ford and Chrysler controlled 46.1 percent of the market so far this year, up from 44.9 percent last year, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
Total U.S. auto sales rose 8.2 percent last month to 1.44 million cars and trucks.
The Detroit Three's gains are the result of "a fundamental shift in consumer perception and preference," said Jim Press, formerly Toyota's top U.S. executive before he became president of Chrysler in 2007. He retired from Chrysler in 2009.
"The imports' biggest nightmare is Detroit's fondest dream," Press said. Detroit's "products are equal to or better than all import brands, giving consumers the green light to purchase American with pride."