Pickups Can't Do the Impossible, but They're Keeping the 'Buy American' Crowd in the Majority

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Rarely are week-to-week sales a useful yardstick of industry (or brand) performance, but the past month’s upheaval has changed that view just a bit.

We told you last week how, despite the U.S. car buyers staying away from dealerships in droves, pickups fared significantly better in late March than any other segment. The drop in sales for these must-have machines, while still steep, paled in comparison to other types of vehicles.

Not surprisingly, that decline continued in the past week. Still, with loyalty among domestic buyers sitting at a two-decade high, Detroit’s grip on what’s left of the market remains secure for now.

According to data compiled by J.D. Power, Sunday, April 5th saw retail sales fall 84 percent compared to a year earlier. Last week, the industry contracted 59 percent compared to pre-virus forecasts, and light-duty pickups followed the downward trend. While the segment ended March on something of an upswing, volume loss last week was considerable — despite it being half that of the industry as a whole.

With buyers visiting remaining dealerships choosing trucks at a much greater rate than anything else, the Detroit Three closed the week with 50.8 percent of the country’s retail volume. That’s down slightly from last week’s 51.1 percent. A surge in zero-percent financing offers and 84-month loan terms have helped Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and GM retain as much of a dwindling market as possible; customer loyalty hasn’t been this high since the Bush administration.

How loyal are Detroit Three owners? Last week, 83 percent of Detroit Three owners or lessees who swapped into a new vehicle drove off in another Detroit Three product. That’s down 1 percent from a week prior, but it shows the power of pickup brand loyalty, and what can happen to stats when one group of car buyers stays home while the other continues shopping. Loyalty among the non-Detroit Three crowd was 74 percent, down nearly 10 percent from a month earlier.

“Strong messaging is attracting current Detroit 3 vehicle owners and helping them to remain loyal and is also enabling conquest of major competitors,” J.D. Power stated.

The message FCA, GM, and Ford want to get across? If no-interest, long-term loans can’t get you through the door, there’s even more cash waiting on the hood.

Surpassing the previous week’s record incentives and average transaction price, the industry spiffed its way to a new high water mark last week. Average incentive spend per vehicle, industry-wide, was $5,100 (up $300 from the week ending March 29th). Last week’s record ATP rose $800 to $36,300. For light duty pickups, average incentives amounted to $7,300 per vehicle — up $100 from last week’s record.

How high can they go? With stay-at-home orders expected to last through the month, if not longer, we won’t have to wait long to find out.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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3 of 31 comments
  • AJ AJ on Apr 12, 2020

    I bought my first pickup last fall (a Tacoma built in Texas). Recently, I brought home 15 bags of mulch, 10 bags of dirt, and several bags of fertilizer on the same trip. I use to use the trunk of a Civic for that stuff... I can't believe it took me so long to buy one?

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Apr 12, 2020

      Next time find a materials year near you and buy in bulk. It will be a fraction of the cost of bagged product. Since I'm guessing you'll use the mulch second have that loaded in the bed first. Then take your first tarp and place it over the mulch and over the sides of the bed. Now have them drop in the dirt, fold the tarp over and you are good to go. When you get home take your second tarp and spread it out under/in back of the truck.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 13, 2020

    Actually Ford partnering with Mahindra is not a bad idea. Mahindra could provide a version of their Jeep like vehicle to Ford that could be made compliant with US Regulations and would give Ford better access to the market in India. Mahindra could benefit with access to products like the Ranger and some of Ford's vans.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.
  • Jmo2 I just got an email from the dealership where I bought my car and it looks like everything has $5k on the hood.
  • Lou_BC I suspect that since the global pandemic, dealerships have preferred to stay with the "if you want it, we will order it" business model. They just need some demo models on hand and some shiny bits to catch the impulse buyer. Profits are higher and risks lower this way.
  • Probert When I hear the word "patriot", I think of entitled hateful whining ignorant traitors to democracy. But hey , meant to say "Pass the salt."
  • Lou_BC A brand or inanimate object isn't patriotic. A person can buy said object based upon patriotism. I'd prefer to buy local or domestic. Is supporting one's fellow countrymen patriotic or logical? I'd rather buy from an allie than a foe. Is that patriotic or logical?