The US economy performed well in the first quarter of 2018, fueling total vehicle sales that climbed 6.3 percent to just over 1.6 million year-to-date.

As expected, truck and SUV/CUV sales led the increase – combined, up 16.3 percent – while cars dropped 9.2 percent from the same period in 2017. The big winner so far in 2018 (no surprise) is the SUV/CUV category which, year-to-date, is up 20.5 percent.

Dodge Ram

Looking at just trucks, the category posted sales of 260,949 units for the month, up a nice 7.89 percent. Year-to-date, on sales of 653,891 units, the gain for the period was smaller at just 2.82 percent.

All Pickups Q1 2018            
Segment March 2018 March 2017 % Change YTD 2018 YTD 2017 % Change Total 2017
Mid-Size 44,703 34,617 29.14 % 112,676 88,944 26.68% 452,337
Full-Size 216,246 207,259 4.34 % 541,217 546,996 (1.06%) 2,370,503
Total 260,949 241,876 7.89 % 653,891 635,940 2.82% 2,822,840

Led again by the very robust Toyota Tacoma, the Mid-Size truck category continued strong with sales of 44,703 units – up 29.14 percent for the month.  For the year, mid-size trucks posted units sales of 112,676 – up 26.68 percent.

Full-Size trucks did not perform as well.  Led by the Ford F-Series, the category posted sales of 216,246 units in March – up only 4.34 percent for the month.  Year to date sales were 541,217, down 1.06 percent from last year.

Toyota

Mid-Size Trucks

The Chevrolet Colorado had the best percentage performance for the month – up a whopping 51.9 percent for March on 12,798-unit sales. The large boost in March sales raised the period to 29.1 percent over last year on total sales of 28,859 units.

Still, they did not come close to Toyota Tacoma sales of 21,250 units for the month (up 21.1 percent) and 53,779 units or 23.60 percent sold year-to-date.

Mid-Size Q1 2018            
Model March 2018 March 2017 % Change YTD 2018 YTD 2017 % Change Total   2017
Toyota Tacoma 20,250 16,728 21.10% 53,779 43,493 23.60% 198,124
Chevy Colorado 12,798 8,426 51.90 % 28,859 22,358 29.10% 112,996
Nissan Frontier 8,932 6,973 28.10% 22,835 15,566 46.60% 74,360
GMC Canyon 2,723 2,490 9.40 % 7,213 7,527 (4.20%) 32,106
Honda Ridgeline 2,690 3,778 (28.80 %) 7,005 9,724 (28.00%) 34,749
Total 44,703 34,617 29.14 % 112,676 88,944 26.68% 452,335

 

2018 Nissan Frontier

We continue to follow the ‘well-aged’ Nissan Frontier (now in its 13th year on this platform) – with wonder and amazement – selling 8,932 units for the month, up 28.1 percent over the same month last year.  Posting period sales of 22,835 units, Frontier is up a staggering 46.6 percent year-to-date.

At the current rate of sale, Frontier just may deliver a new best-year-ever (in the 80,000-unit range) in 2018.  Mind you they posted their previous best-year-ever just last year at 74,360 units.

We get asked all the time, when Nissan is going to introduce a new generation Frontier.  Our answer is – with sales like this – why?

Trailing the pack are:

  • GMC Canyon despite a nice percentage month – up 9.40 percent, is behind for the year – down 4.20 percent.
  • Honda Ridgeline, struggling, is down more than 28.8 percent for the month and 28 percent year-to-date.
2018 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel

Full-Size Trucks

Ford F-Series continues to dominate the category with sales of 87,011 units for the month, up 7.0 percent from last year. Year-to-date, sales are 214,191 units, up 4.3 percent for the period.

In distant second position is the Chevrolet Silverado with sales of 52,547 for the month and 135,545 year-to-date. The March sales were up a strong 23.9 percent driving a period increase of 5.5 percent.  The new 2019 Silverado is a much-improved version and we think it will spark increased sales for the brand throughout the year.

After having given the Silverado a strong challenge in 2017, FCA Ram trucks have slipped from last year’s pace.  March sales were 41,307 – down 10.9 percent and year-to-date, 103,964 – down 12.8 percent.  The highly regarded new 2019 Ram 1500 trucks are now beginning delivery to the market.  We think we will see a measurable improvement in Ram sales by end of second quarter from the new 2019 model.

The all-new 2019 Silverado High Country

We note that these three brands own the category, capturing 83.6 percent of all sales in March and 83.8 percent of the market for the year.

Full Size          Q1 2018      
Model March 2018 March 2017 % Change YTD 2018 YTD 2017 % Change Total 2017
Ford F-Series 87,011 81,330 7.00% 214,191 205,281 4.30% 896,764
Chevy Silverado 52,547 42,410 23.90% 135,545 128,467 5.50% 585,864
FCA Ram 41,307 46,384 (10.90 %) 103,964 119,999 (12.80%) 500,723
GMC Sierra 17,087 18,460 (7.50 %) 41,468 49,810 (16.70%) 217,943
Toyota Tundra 10,697 9,358 14.30 % 26,318 23,220 13.30% 116,285
Nissan Titan 4,912 5,539 (11.30%) 12,724 11,295 12.70% 52,924
Total 216,246 207,259 4.34% 541,215 546,996 (1.06%) 2,370,503

 

The remaining 16.2 percent of the market is shared by the GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan.

2018_Toyota_Tundra

The GMC Sierra had sales of 17,087 units in March – off 7.5 percent from prior year. Period sales were 41,468 – down 16.7 percent from last year.  We think the slippage here is in anticipation of the debut of the new generation Sierra due later this year.

Toyota Tundra – built only in Texas –  posted a monthly increase of 14.3 percent on sales of 10,697 units.  For the year, sales are 26,318 – an increase of 13.3 percent.  Tundra sales have been somewhat limited by capacity constraints at the only plant building it – also shared by the hot Toyota Tacoma.  New production capacity is coming on line for Tacoma that will improve inventory flexibility and availability for Tundra as soon as 2019, but not likely before.

The recently-new Nissan Titan – after a good start last year, trails the category with sales of just 4,912 units in March, down 11.3 percent from prior year.  Year-to-date, Titan sales are only 12,724 units, off 12.7 percent from last year. The Titan is a very good truck – sales should be better.  We are at a loss to point to a specific reason other than flat market demand and strong competitors not giving up share easily.

New 2018 Ford F-150

Looking Ahead

Though the economy has been good, recent actions by the current administration are putting the automotive industry at some risk with imposition of tariffs and global trade restrictions.  Until that shakes out some, we forecast that the total automotive sales market will, at best, hold steady to last year.

Cars will certainly be off (maybe even more so) as tariffs are now likely on Chinese built sedans (like the new Ford Focus) that were scheduled for 2019 – which will further crimp sales.  Some of those tariff actions will also impact some SUV/CUV product such as the currently available Chinese built Buick Envision.

Trucks should be a bright spot, continuing to gain ground in the Mid-Size category as more variety comes available in current offerings and the arrival of the long-awaited Ford Ranger.  We expect the Full-Size category to hold reasonably steady as some really good new-generation product (like the 2019 Ram 1500) comes available through the year.

truck sales