February 2018 Truck Sales: Healthy Volume Doesn't Always Make for a Happy Automaker

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

As we told you earlier this afternoon, two of the Detroit Three automakers posted significant year-over-year U.S. sales decreases last month. Ford Motor Company and General Motors both saw American sales volume sink by 6.9 percent. While passenger cars both low-end and premium can usually take the blame for any sales decrease, general wisdom says buyers will gravitate in equal numbers towards SUVs, crossovers, and trucks, cancelling out most, if not all, of the sales exodus.

This isn’t always true. In February’s case, Ford can lay some of the blame at the foot of its best-selling crossover, while GM can finger its full-size truck lineup. Ford Escape sales sank 23.9 percent in February, year over year — a loss making up roughly three-quarters of Ford’s missing vehicles. As customers await new versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, the aged models brought in fewer buyers than the same month in 2017 — 16.3 and 25.3 percent less, respectively. Like Ford, that’s roughly three-quarters of GM’s missing February volume.

A 15 percent year-over-year decline at the Ram brand — itself awaiting a new half-ton — brings home the importance of pickups in 2018.

The loss of Ram volume pushed Fiat Chrysler sales into negative territory when compared to a year earlier, though the loss was only 1 percent. It’s to be expected when there’s a next-generation model knocking on the door.

Trucks aren’t just an American concern, however. While the Detroit Three remain dominant in the full-size pickup market, Toyota and Nissan are seeing more and more pickups in the companies’ sales mix. Last month was a big month for both.

At Toyota, Tundra sales rose 10.3 percent, year over year, while the ever-popular midsize Tacoma rose 18 percent. That places the two trucks’ share of Toyota Motor Company’s U.S. volume at 13.6 percent, up from 12.3 percent a year earlier. (This figure includes the Lexus division.) Overall, Toyota Motor Company’s February sales rose 4.5 percent in the U.S.

Nissan can’t stop a making its Titan and Titan XD more attractive to would-be customers (still no word on a V6, unfortunately), and it seems like the effort’s paying off. The Titan line saw a sales increase of 25.9 percent. The midsize, paleolithic Frontier, which still has no successor in sight, showed that Americans don’t care much about new architecture if the price is right. Sales climbed 68.8 percent over last February’s showing. While the winter of 2017 brought a significant sales drop, last month’s volume was still the little pickup’s best monthly total since last June.

While Nissan Group’s overall sales sank 4.3 percent last month, pickups claimed 9.1 percent of the automaker’s U.S. volume, up from 5.7 percent a year earlier.

Standing astride all of this activity, of course, if the seemingly unstoppable Ford F-Series. Despite the brand’s showing, sales of the F-Series line rose 3.5 percent in February. Just over 35 percent of all Ford Motor Company vehicles sold in the U.S. last month came with a pickup bed — greater than either GM’s mix (29.8 percent) or Fiat Chrysler’s (20.1 percent).

The only GM pickup to see more year-over-year buyers last month was the midsize Chevrolet Colorado, which rose 7.1 percent. The lower-volume GMC Canyon, meanwhile, continued its descent, down 22.1 percent from the same month a year earlier.

We can’t forget Honda in this pickup roundup, but we’d be forgiven if we did. The automaker’s unibody Ridgeline found 32.3 percent fewer buyers this February compared to last, with 2,209 units sold. That’s 110 units less than the Canyon. Put another way, 1.9 percent of vehicles sold by American Honda last month were Ridgelines.

[Image: Ford Motor Company, Toyota]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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8 of 17 comments
  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Mar 02, 2018

    What does the Escape need to get back on track? I suppose the same could be asked of any Ford that's not a Mustang or F150.

    • See 3 previous
    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Mar 02, 2018

      @Lorenzo Those inline 6s were smoooooothhhhh, as experienced in the BMW 325, 328 and 528, and the BMW 735. No crankshaft counterbalance needed.

  • Verbal Verbal on Mar 02, 2018

    Car and Driver just completed a long-term test of the Titan XD. They declared it a steaming pile.

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    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Mar 02, 2018

      @Lorenzo What I experienced in 2010 test driving a 2010 Tundra was that it inspired my confidence in driving the beast. I ended up buying a 2011 Tundra 5.7 SR5, that had to be ordered. But after that test drive, I had to drive home my 2006 F150 and what a bummer it was compared to the solid, competent ride and handling of that 2010 Tundra.

  • Lou_BC While we discuss Chinese cars, Chinese politics, and Chinese global desires, I'm looking at TTAC and Google display advertising for Chinese tires. They have nukes aimed at us but their money and products are acceptable to consumers and business?
  • TheTireWhisperer And a thankful Memorial day to all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Take some time today to realize that virtually zero soldiers had died defending your border.
  • Tassos As somebody who is NOT a stupid fanatic about EVs one way or the other:No manufacturer has built a "Better Tesla" EV yet. Most have tried, we wait for TOyota only (last hope for the Tesla haters)UNLESS a DIRT CHEAP Model 2 comes along (will never happen in the next 2 or 3 years), Do NOT expect that 7% to go to even 10%, let alone the ... 30% clueless Idiot Joe Biden voters expect. If anything, PLUG INS and HYBRIDS may, in the SHORT term, bring the 7% down.
  • Pig_Iron 💝