By on October 6, 2020

Image: FordBetter than 16 percent of the new vehicles sold in the United States in the third quarter of 2020 were full-size pickup trucks, an increase created by relatively steady truck sales in an unsteady world.

And who’s to thank? Ford, primarily. 

USA pickup truck market share chart 2020 Q3 YTD - Image: © TTACFollowing a COVID-inflicted 33 percent nosedive in auto sales in the second quarter of 2020, full-size pickups are taking advantage of a resurgent auto industry, grabbing an even greater percentage of available truck volume. Eighty percent of the pickups sold in America over the last three months were full-size trucks. In fact, while midsize pickups stumbled to the tune of a 7 percent year-over-year drop in Q3 – still not as poor as the overall industry’s showing – full-size pickups very nearly matched 2019’s pre-COVID sales pace.

The degree to which the full-size sector’s positive results serve as an accurate indicator of demand, however, is unknown due to three factors. First, by most accounts, prevailing demand would suggest even greater sales volume would be possible if only pickup truck inventory was at typical levels. Second, after a phase of shutdowns and mass unemployment, defining current demand as opposed to leftover pent-up demand is next to impossible. Third, 2019 results naturally included a high level of fleet demand; 2020’s include a lower level of fleet. That has obvious knock-on effects when it comes to retail volume.

Rank Truck 2020 Q3 2019 Q3 % Change 2020 YTD 2019 YTD % Change
#1 Ford F-Series 221,647 214,176 3.5% 589,034 662,574 -11.1%
#2 Ram P/U 156,157 161,635 -3.4% 402,410 461,115 -12.7%
#3 Chevrolet Silverado 148,574 156,840 -5.3% 418,144 415,481 0.6%
#4 GMC Sierra 67,812 66,198 2.4% 174,645 163,601 6.8%
#5 Toyota Tacoma 58,920 65,756 -10.4% 163,619 187,622 -12.8%
#6 Ford Ranger 28,350 26,211 8.2% 74,338 56,512 31.5%
#7 Toyota Tundra 27,934 31,565 -11.5% 76,814 86,062 -10.7%
#8 Chevrolet Colorado 27,256 31,657 -13.9% 68,529 96,820 -29.2%
#9 Jeep Gladiator 22,163 16,132 37.4% 56,990 23,384 144%
#10 Honda Ridgeline 8,607 8,378 2.7% 23,112 23,633 -2.2%
#11 Nissan Frontier 7,213 15,364 -53.1% 26,287 54,686 -51.9%
#12 Nissan Titan 7,207 7,386 -2.4% 19,403 25,412 -23.6%
#13 GMC Canyon 6,475 7,437 -12.9% 16,183 23,600 -38.5%
——— —– —– —– —–
Midsize 158,984 170,935 -7.0% 429,058 468,957 -8.5%
Full-Size 629,331 637,800 -1.3% 1,680,450 1,814,245 -7.4%
Total 788,315 808,735 -2.5% 2,109,508 2,283,202 -7.6%

Setting aside the unknowns, there remains plenty we do know. After a first half in which GM’s Silverado/Sierra duo reported unlikely strength, Ford’s F-Series took advantage of GM’s Q3 slip (the full-size twins were down 3 percent), Ram’s similar 3 percent decrease, and declines from the less competitive Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan to grow Blue Oval market share by two points to 35 percent.

Ford’s task now is to balance inventory of the outgoing F-150 as the next-generation F-150 comes on stream. Although Ford is reaping the rewards of a very popular Explorer now, Ford’s dealers were certainly unhappy when that consequential SUV was launched. The F-150’s launch is far more important and far more complex. It must not go wrong.

There certainly doesn’t appear to be a problem with Ford’s operation in the midsize truck segment. So far this year, Ranger market share has soared five points to 17 percent this year. Ranger volume in Q3, despite a 7 percent slowdown in midsize truck sales, was up 8 percent.

The Ranger is part of a tight two-way race in the midsize segment, albeit not for the gold-medal position. The Toyota Tacoma, even in short supply, outsells the No. 2 Ranger by more than two-to-one. The Ranger is, however, in a close race with the Chevrolet Colorado, and to a lesser degree the Jeep Gladiator. The Gladiator’s 37 percent year-over-year improvement in Q3 was the most notable in the truck segment.

Specific truck performances aside, the overall pickup category’s performance remains immensely important to the auto industry as a whole while also serving as a nation’s economic barometer. After an unpredictable second-quarter and a somewhat less surprising third-quarter, forecasting fourth-quarter results may well be a fool’s errand in this year of constant bombshells. A guarded projection would suggest a Q3-aping decline through the end of the year, enough for another 819,000 pickup truck sales by the end of the year; 2.93 million by New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve. It sounds like a lifetime away.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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24 Comments on “The State Of America’s Pickup Truck Market: 2020 Q3...”

  • avatar

    What’s with the “” trying to install some software? Not getting that on any other websites….

    • 0 avatar

      I used to get a lot of weird pop-ups and hi-jack attempts, it has subsided since I switched to the Brave browser. Now the weirdness is gone but it still takes a half dozen attempts to log in.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Gladiator and Ranger are the new ‘gotta have’ products in the truck market, so they are up no matter what. Frontier is out of date and dying off.

    The other gains and losses are just statistical noise in a noisy economy, with low interest rates propping up house and car sales. Those numbers don’t tell me that Ford is newly distinguished right now.

    • 0 avatar

      Gladiator sales look like there was a huge demand but it’s a new product. I’m amazed with the fact that most of the one’s I see are loaded Rubicon’s.
      Ranger’s are new but are less of a niche product than the Gladiator. Eventually both with reach a plateau.

  • avatar

    Wow, they sure don’t move a lot of Tundras.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    The only people who consider the Tundra are those who already have a Toyota in their garage already. It is a woefully out of date technology wise-and also the powertrain.

    Tundra owners report 20mpg on the highway under ideal conditions. My 2018 Silverado (5.3) will easily do 25mpg at moderate speeds on the Interstate.

    Rumor has it a hybrid powertrain is coming on the new Tundra. That may be something to consider.

    Don’t mention resale…I have already checked and while favoring the Tundra the difference in resale is miniscule.

    • 0 avatar

      This is the first I’ve heard of a Tundra Hybrid since they ended their development agreement with Ford many years ago. Ford obviously continued with development on their own, but I doubt Toyota did as they wouldn’t have joined forces with Ford in the first place if they thought the Tundra could support the cost of development on it’s own at the small volumes it sells in.

      • 0 avatar

        The rumor on Toyota fan sites is a turbo v6 hybrid and non hybrid will be the only offerings. My guess would be looking at Toyotas playbook from the first Tundra they are going to use some of the engineering from the Lexus line of Turbos and Hybrids for the Tundra but with much heavier transmissions.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota is supposed to be building their version on an Ecoboost V6 truck.

    • 0 avatar

      In 2009, I was impressed to get an average 20mpg (per computer) out of a 2008 Silverado 5.3, AWD, extended cab, if I kept the speed at 67-68mph. A little slow for prevailing conditions, so I usually drove it a 72-73 to flow with traffic. With about 80% of the miles being interstate, no towing, the rest suburban, if I recall, it average 16.8 mpg

  • avatar

    Tough times call for tough vehicles, so trucks in general are holding their own.

    And maybe with “tough times”, a few truck buyers are having 2nd thoughts about the longevity of EcoBoost and Ram, and going with the GM products.

    • 0 avatar

      GM’s YTD numbers look good only because they looked so bad in the beginning of 2019 due to limited inventory.

    • 0 avatar

      COVID-19 is causing a shift in people’s recreation choices. Boats, campers and any “great outdoors” type activities are increasing. A pickup is the most versatile tool for that end. Someone on another post commented that since more people are working from home, they will shift to less fuel efficient vehicles since they no longer need a commuter appliance.

  • avatar

    I suspect that if you take out HD pickup sales (which I’m pretty sure are included in the above), GM actually sells the most half-ton pickups of any manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that’s a decent guess, actually.

      • 0 avatar

        “GM actually sells the most half-ton pickups of any manufacturer.”

        I believe this has been true for some time. The guys who buy diesel trucks for heavy use tend to prefer Ford and Ram pretty heavily, but GM keeps it close in overall sales by outselling them both handily in half tons.

    • 0 avatar

      YTD GM has sold more full size trucks than anyone. That isn’t unusual either, as that has happened in a number of years, but since they are sold as two different brands Ford can rightfully claim the title as best selling full size pickup.

      It would be interesting to see the break out by class.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s about exactly what you’d expect. For Ram, their HD pickups are close to half the total, Ford HDs are about at 40% and GM HDs are around 25% of their fullsize pickup sales.

        That’s based on registrations compiled by JDPowers and others.

        Basically the GM IsuzuMax diesels don’t hold up to commercial use.

  • avatar

    And for all the low IQ people reading this, the FSeries does NOT mean strictly the F150.

    Remember that the FSeries is not a vehicle (which is funny that it has sales numbers).

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      F Series sales are an amalgamation of US DOT class 1 to 3 sales. The Dodge, err Stellantis, err Dodge Ram, no just Ram has surpassed the Silverdildo in sales in sales using the same criteria. The GMC Sierra remains the Gentleman’s pick-up. All of the traditional “Big 3” use the same US DOT class 1 to 3 sales criteria. That’s what low IQ people don’t understand. Tip of the hat to CKNSLS Sierra SLT for his comments about the Tundra. He’s spot-on and I’ve looked at Lexus GX’s and LXs. I like to think Titan drivers got some sweet deals. In reality, full size trucks have replaced the Bonneville’s, Caprice’s, and LTD’s of yore. Mea culpa time; I come from a farming and heavy construction background. If you use your truck as a truck, I’ll respectfully listen to what you have to say. Sadly, most of the guys blowing gas about their truck are same guys wearing smooth and clean work boots on casual Friday. With polo shirts.

    • 0 avatar

      Ram’s numbers are the ones that are a farce as they are for 3 different trucks, the new 1500, the classic 1500 and the 2500/3500 which is based on the classic 1500 with some updating to look like the new 1500.

    • 0 avatar

      It takes an even lower IQ to not see the Silverado is also a Series (of trucks in different classes).

      F “series” is used since there’s an F in front of 150, 250 and 350. Ram and GM just went with 1500, 2500 and 3500.

      Some BMWs are called a “series” too since a model line can all start with 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 or 8.

      It’s easier and simpler than calling a model the BMW 318, 318s, 325, 325i, 330, 330D etc, for example.

      So you get the “3-series”.

      This lesson is brought to you by the letter “D” (for don’t be a dummy).

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