Updated January 20, 2024, to adjust the Chevrolet Silverado sales total.
A global pandemic and an attendant chip shortage knocked the auto industry down in 2021 and 2022, but those challenges are largely in the rearview mirror. Add in a protracted labor strike against GM, Ford, and Stellantis in 2023, and it is a wonder that overall sales were as strong as they were. Indeed, with approximately 15.6 million units sold in the U.S., sales were up 13 percent for the year. That’s still well below the 17 million or more units sold ahead of the pandemic, but it points to a healthy rebound for the year.
A significant slice of the market involves pickup trucks, models with high-profit lines, and consistent consumer demand. As recently as a decade earlier, the segment was overwhelmingly dominated by full-size models. While that fact remains, the midsize market is back with new models rolling out for 2024. Further, compact trucks are back, thanks to Ford and Hyundai. Likely, we’ll see additional models roll out as competing manufacturers eye the segment. Lastly, electric pickup trucks are here, with the domestic manufacturers offering several models joined by Rivian and Tesla to round out the segment.
The following is our breakdown of the pickup truck market, led by full-size than midsize models. We’ll also look at the compact segment, and then mention the impact of electric models.
Full-Size Pickup Trucks Lead the Way
Full-size pickup trucks comprise light, medium, and heavy-duty models, with each of the domestic-based manufacturers involved. Toyota and Nissan have a presence as well, but these manufacturers do not offer heavy-duty variants. As such, the market continues to be led by four nameplates in the following sales order: Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500, and the GMC Sierra.
Ford continues to rightly boast that it has had the best-selling model for 47 consecutive years. While the space between the Ford and Chevrolet doesn’t seem as if it will ever be breached, GM can claim victory too. Notably, GM built 839,056 full-size pickup trucks spanning two brand names in 2023 – Chevrolet and GMC. That represents 88,267 more units than the Ford Motor Company. (Please note that we adjusted Chevrolet’s numbers downward by 11,829 units once we realized medium-duty models were included).
Ram 1500 sales fell in 2023 as this automaker had the toughest time with the chip shortage. Two years ago, the Ram passed Chevrolet, a shocking change that hasn’t occurred. Toyota sales remain up on a newer Tundra, while even Nissan posted year-over-year gains. But 2024 is the final year for the Titan as Nissan will abandon its full-size model.
Midsize Pickup Trucks: A Market in Flux
The midsize pickup truck market began to rebound in 2015 when GM reintroduced the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. That move revived demand across the board, with Toyota and Nissan also benefitting. Since then, new or revived versions of the Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, and Jeep Gladiator have arrived. A segment once in decline was on its way back.
Last year, though, sales were flat or down across the board. The segment is led by Toyota, which sells more of its midsize Tacomas than that of its next three competitors combined. Sales of the Tacoma were down slightly for the year. A new model is arriving at dealerships as of this writing.
Unlike its F-150, Ford cannot claim leadership in the midsize segment. Ranger sales fell sharply last year, enabling the rising Honda Ridgeline to take over the fifth spot. Perhaps most surprising is the fall of the Nissan Frontier. The segment’s perennial number two model fell by approximately 18,000 units, one year after its latest model was introduced. In 2016, sales peaked at 86,926 units for an already-aged vehicle.
The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon were redesigned in 2023, with the Tacoma and Ranger redesigns made in 2023. For 2024, the Gladiator receives a modest refresh, while the Ridgeline gains an all-new TrailSport off-road variant. We expect the segment will rebound in 2024, although economic headwinds are a factor.
Compact and Electric Models
The Ford Maverick (94,058) and the Hyundai Santa Cruz (36,675) pace a nascent segment, one that’s certain to include several additional competitors moving forward. Rumors of a Toyota competitor are currently just that, but we believe manufacturers such as Toyota, GM, and Stellantis won’t sit idly by. Nissan and Honda may join suit too, with perhaps Subaru, Volkswagen, and maybe Mazda jumping in as well.
Electric pickup trucks are increasingly making their mark in the automotive industry. Current options include electric versions of established full-size models from Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC, with more expected to enter the market soon. Ram is also set to introduce its first electric vehicle (EV) this year. Rivian stands out with its unique RT1 model (approximately 16,000 units sold). Tesla’s Cybertruck is slowly emerging in the market, though it’s still rare. As the trend towards electric trucks continues, a major concern remains: many models suffer from inadequate towing capacity and questionable driving range.
Pickup Truck Postmortem
With about 2.9 million units sold, the pickup truck market remains an important part of the consumer segment. That’s just over 18 percent, but hardly tells a complete story. Indeed, with pickup trucks serving as profit centers, these models play an outsized role in the market. In effect, they keep the domestic manufacturers afloat, while offering a tantalizing choice for all others.