By on April 4, 2018

2017 Nissan Frontier King Cab - Image: Nissan

With an extra selling day compared to the March that came before it, last month saw U.S. new vehicle buyers continue doing what they’ve done for years. By that, we mean snap up trucks and SUVs like it’s going out of style. (There’s no indication it’s going out of style.)

According to figures from Autodata, truck and SUV sales rose 16.3 percent in the U.S., year over year, while traditional passenger cars continued to fade from the minds of new vehicle buyers. That segment declined 9.2 percent, year over year.

Monthly sales figures can be fickle, which is apparently the reason for General Motors’ switch to quarterly sales reports starting next month, but we prefer receiving data more often. And last month’s data paints a very different picture than February’s. Leaving SUVs aside, which pickups soared in March?

If you suspect the bottom didn’t fall out of Ford F-Series demand, you’d be correct. Ford claims last month was the segment-leading model’s best March showing since Y2K, with year-over-year sales up 7 percent. Over the first three months of 2018, F-Series sales are up 4.3 percent in the United States.

The Ram brand can’t say the same, as sales of its 1500 and heavy duty trucks fell 11 percent, year over year. It’s not unsurprising, given that dealers, and probably quite a few buyers, are waiting for the imminent release of a redesigned 2019 model. Still, production of the current-generation half ton hasn’t ceased, and Ram, like other Fiat Chrysler divisions, isn’t scared of playing Let’s Make a Deal. Year to date, Ram trucks sales are down 13 percent.

2017 GMC Canyon SLT Diesel - Image: GMC

It’s a mixed bag of news over at General Motors, where the outgoing current-generation Silverado 1500 (and larger siblings) found 23.9 percent more buyers in March than the same month in 2017. Demand was sufficient to push year-to-date sales figures into the black, with a 5.5 percent increase. GMC, however, did not see the same demand for the Sierra line. That lower-volume model fell 7.5 percent, year over year. Over the first quarter of 2018, Sierra sales trail last year’s figures by 16.7 percent.

It was all upward mobility in GM’s midsize truck segment, however. Chevrolet Colorado sales shot up 51.9 percent in March, year over year, with sales over the first three months of 2018 up a comfortable 29.1 percent. It’s twin, the GMC Canyon, recorded a more modest 9.4 percent uptick. Year to date, that model’s still in the red, down 4.2 percent from 2017’s tally.

The good truck news carried over to Toyota, which saw both of its models handily beat last March’s figures. Tacoma sales rose 21.1 percent, year over year, with the ancient Tundra seeing a 14.3 percent increase. Year to date, the models have seen a volume increase of 23.6 and 13.3 percent, respectively.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro - Image: Toyota

So eager were Americans to get into new pickups, even the segment’s oldest — the Nissan Frontier — saw a year-over-year sales gain of 28.1 percent. You’d have to travel back in time more than a decade to find a month with similar Frontier volume. (You’d also find yourself face to face with a very similar Frontier.) Sales of the value-packed pickup rose 46.6 percent over the first three months of the year.

Nissan Titan sales, on the other hand, shrunk 11.3 percent compared to March of last year, but the model line’s tally for 2018 remains 12.7 percent above last year’s figure.

Sadly for Honda, all of this truck love did not rekindle the public’s romance with the unibody Ridgeline. Sales of the Pilot-based model sunk 28.8 percent, year over year, last month. Over the first quarter of 2018, Ridgelines sales fell 28 percent.

[Images: Nissan, General Motors]

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19 Comments on “March 2018 U.S. Truck Sales: Springtime for Hauler...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The Frontier has always been on my radar, though as a relatively low-priority candidate. Up to now, it’s the smallest of all the mid-sized trucks available in the last decade. It’s also the most dated, with an interior that simply doesn’t appeal. The Tacoma has been more appealing, but even as an extended cab, the driver’s seat just doesn’t move back far enough to allow a long-legged driver to sit at the controls comfortably (the Colorado finally fixed that problem.)

    I’m actually surprised about the Nissan, though. You’d think that with the announcement of an updated (whole new design) model coming soon that sales would drop off–like the RAMs–with people waiting for that newer version. That is, unless there really ARE people who want a smaller truck rather than a larger one… hmmmm? With the current Frontier being the smallest of all available mid-sized trucks, this sudden jump suggests that smaller really IS better.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I’d love to scoop up a 6spd extended cab Frontier Pro-4X, or even just an SV 4wd with that 4.0L+6spd combo. It’s a lot of fun to drive, properly quick. The problem is that the vast majority of the Frontiers seem to be crewcab SV automatics, or basic extended cab RWD 4cyl variants.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Your chance to buy such a vehicle is likely dwindling as Nissan has to be thinking about a Frontier replacement. It wouldn’t surprise me if the successor drops the manual in top trim levels AND drops the 4.0 V6 for something modified from a car V6…

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I reckon you’re right, sadly. I just don’t have a burning necessity to upgrade right now, the cheap old Ranger is handling my hauling and commuting duties just fine at the moment. The focus has been knocking out my wife’s medical school loans (finally just about done with that). If I’m going to be spending new-car money it’ll be on a family-friendly SUV like a lightly used Armada that I keep talking about on here haha.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Of course – there are times I look at various vehicles and think “dang, that’s the last of it’s kind – I should buy one.” Hopefully I won’t talk myself out of it the next time…

          I have a feeling the only regrets in life I’m going to have are “automotive” in nature. ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “I have a feeling the only regrets in life I’m going to have are “automotive” in nature. ;-)”

            Haha yep, if that’s the worst of my regrets in life then I can stomach that no problem. Speaking of automotive regrets, that’s the one thing with my beloved “vintage” 4Runner. I think if I sold it on practical considerations of replacing it with a more highway-friendly modern option that ticked all the boxes practically speaking (roomy SUV-type vehicles with a bit of offroad chops for primitive camping trips), I would be eaten alive with regret as soon as it left my driveway. Our current house has a 1 car garage and driveway space for just one other car, the rest is street parking.

    • 0 avatar
      JGMotorsport64

      I have a crew cab 4.0/5 speed auto bought new in 2010. It’s a great truck no complaints at all. 90k on original brakes, no substantive repairs other than the dopey Nissan fuse they put on top of the positive terminal of the battery, but that was like $30.

      I’d replace it with another one, but then I’d be driving the same car for decades.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    It will be interesting to see what the sales pictures look like in the 2019 MY where we have overlap of old Sierra/Silverado being sold beside new Sierra/Silverado and old RAM being sold next to new RAM. I know the old style will be limited in cab/bed configuration and trim packages but I want to see if the Classic/Legacy/Limited will steal sales from the new or boost overall sales numbers for their respective brands.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I will click on nearly every headline that has a “The Producers” reference.

    Don’t be dumb, be a smarty come and join the trucking party.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    The Tacoma/4Runner will haunt me until I get one.

    • 0 avatar
      ernest

      Son’s g/f just traded her 4Runner for a Silverado Z71 Crew Cab. Tacoma/4Runner are great rigs, but very expensive for what you get. Full size domestic offer a much better value, IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I don’t think you’er missing anything great with the current gen Taco. Gained 400lb from the last gen while losing low end torque. The 4Runner on the other hand… is likewise an object of my desire.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        This, new Tacoma is a real let down, from the car engine that is a certified letdown in comparison to the previous gens engine, to the plastic rear bumper.
        The 4Runner on the other hand is still a highly deaireable SUV that is in a class by itself.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Would be great to see a similar analysis on the Rav4/CRV/Rogue/Escape/Equinox segment … especially since the 19 Rav4 is such a game changer. Possible that Rav4 and CrV will run away with the whole segment just like Camry and Accord did.

    Those large GM pickups are so attractive … I thought they would even do better.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      I also wonder. That new Rav4 is fascinating. They went from cute, to smooth, to, uh, attractiveness-challenged, to a look that seems a little like a mini-4Runner. Should be quite interesting.

      (I bought the ex-wife a 2006 Limited AWD new, and it went 175k reliable miles.)

  • avatar
    kkop

    “It’s not unsurprising…”, so it’s surprising? Doesn’t look like it from the context (Ram 1500 sales drop while awaiting 2019 model release).

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    From what I heard, the new Ridgeline is better than the old one in all respects, but it’s just not succeeding for whatever reason. Maybe it’s not flexible enough, coming essentially in one size only. Maybe it’s too expensive. Or maybe it’s made by Honda. {Update: Personally, I’d give it a better consideration if it were made from CR-V instead of Pilot. But it’s a sample of 1.}


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