Since hitting a ten-year low in 2009—during the depths of the Great Recession—new light truck sales hit a new high in 2015 both in terms of absolute numbers and as a percentage of total vehicles sold in the US. As economic, technological, and social forces continue to transform the auto industry, this is yet one more trend to keep an eye on as your dealership plans its marketing spend and its inventory allocation for the coming year.
According to NADA Data, new light truck sales bttomed out at 4,945,400 sold in 2009, coming in at only 47.5% of all light vehicles sold in the US that year. Since then, trucks have been climbing both in number of units sold and as a percentage of total light vehicle sales (except for a brief backslide percentage-wise in 2012, when new car sales took a sudden leap of nearly 1.2 million units). This trend continued from 2014 to 2015, but the trendline took a sharp turn that dealerships should be aware of.
In 2014, light truck sales accounted for a total of 8,748,100 units sold in the US, which was 53.2% of the 16,437,000 total new light vehicle sales for that year. In 2015, light truck sales took a substantial leap to more 9,861,024—well over a million more units than the previous year—accounting for 56.7% of the total 17,386,047 light vehicles sold.
If that’s too many numbers for you, try thinking of it this way: two million more new trucks than new cars were sold in the US last year, and there’s every reason to think the gap will be even wide next year.
Why? Well, lower gas prices are definitely playing a part. Though they’ve already climbed back up from their recent lows, most analysts agree that gas has reached it’s peak price point, and that we’ll continue to see lower prices at the pump as electric vehicles and alternative fuels become more commonplace. The lower fuel efficiency of light trucks compared to cars, all else being equal, is no longer a significant consideration for many car buyers.
Those that need the extra power, storage, and/or towing capacity have always been willing to pay for it. Now more people can afford to use trucks as their basic commuting vehicles again, and auto dealers should be taking note when it comes to their marketing and to their sales teams’ customer/vehicle matching efforts.
Any dealership with both cars and trucks on the lot needs to know that they might be more interchangeable for many consumers than they have been in the recent past, and should take steps to ensure that they have comprehensive, engaging, and easily-navigable information about all of their vehicles accessible online. Then, car or truck, you’re sure to find yourself with a satisfied and loyal customer.