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Car departure

 

A few years ago, vehicle sales in United States were divided equally between cars and trucks.  But so far this year, truck sales have outpaced cars sales by a ratio of 2 to 1.

Sport utility and crossover sales are lumped in with the trucks, making the move away from traditional coupes and sedans appear even more drastic.  Nevertheless, it’s predicted that 75 to 80 percent of new light vehicle sales will consist of pickups, crossovers and SUVs by 2025.

Aside from the increasing popularity of pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers are luring car buyers at a rapid pace.  According to industry analysts, it will be harder and harder to convince buyers who have purchased an SUV that reverting back to a car would make sense.

Part of that reluctance to trade back to a car stems from the increased utility of SUVs and trucks, but another factor is the greatly improved fuel economy the new truck models offer.  When they provide more utility for an operating expense similar to cars, buyers take notice.

As a result of this consumer phenomenon, automakers are adjusting production and marketing strategies.  Some are cutting back on car production, some are developing new truck models and others are envisioning car-selling opportunities as many car sources dwindle.

Automobile manufacturers are on pace to sell 5.3 million cars in 2018, which will be the lowest annual number sold since 1958.  Data from Edmunds shows that the number of buyers who replaced a car with another car has fallen to 53 percent so far this year from the level of 68 percent only four years ago.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has removed some of its sedans from the model lineup, and only 10 percent of FCA’s 2018 U.S, sales represents cars.  Ford Motor Company has announced that it will be eliminating all cars except the Focus from the marketplace.  That’s a drastic change from when the redesigned 2013 Fusion was groomed to unseat America’s top-selling sedan, the Camry.

Subaru of America seems properly poised for the buying shift as it has been promoting a crossover-laden lineup since the mid-1990s.  Hyundai-Kia sells the highest percentage of cars among major automakers, but even the current 59 percent level is well below their 79 percent figure of five years ago.

Ford’s diminishing sedan offering is seen as an opportunity for General Motors and Toyota to fill a void.  Allen Batey, G.M.’s North American president, believes that there are still plenty of customers wanting cars, adding, “That some of our competitors have decided to exit them, that just creates a bigger opportunity for us.”

Toyota still sees cars as core to its identity.  It has spent millions of dollars overhauling its sedans and hatchbacks and striving to keep its Camry in the number one sales spot for sedans.

When I noticed the trend-toward-trucks a few years ago, I asked, “Why drive a truck when you can drive a car?”  That query was based on trucks having a rough ride, lack of amenities and poor fuel economy when compared to greater comfort and economy of a car. When coupled with the fact that many truck owners never use the utility of their truck, owning one as a main vehicle made little sense.

Well now, with improved ride, more options and better fuel economy, many consumers are evidently asking, “Why drive a car when you can drive a truck?”

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.