Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Twilight of the Truck-Based SUV

by Tom Bozzo

Prof. Hamilton has the usual goods on the February automobile sales reports, focusing on weak sales of domestic light trucks, down 12.7% year-over-year. A catch is that the light truck figures include an increasing number of tall wagons that are "trucks" mainly for regulatory purposes (marketing imperatives having already labeled them neither car nor truck). Looking at ther reports' details, the market for actual trucks, and especially truck-based SUVs, is terrible. Here's my tally for Ford and GM (sorry, I was not up to picking over the undead Chrysler):

Ford Domestic Brands

CategoryFeb '08Feb '07% Change
Quasi-trucks [*]33,84630,82910%
Truck-based trucks [**]92,863102,631-10%
Total trucks126,709133,460-5%
Memo: Truck-based SUVs [***]19,03324,544-22%

General Motors

CategoryFeb '08Feb '07% Change
Truck-based trucks124,548165,751-25%
Total trucks162,831202,861-20%
Memo: Truck-based SUVs38,26052,004-26%

So, bad as the truck market is, the headline truck sales figures are being propped up by crossovers. Truck-based SUV sales are headed down the drain, with Ford's once-ubiquitous truck SUVs having already been left in the dust by its crossovers and GM's following suit. That is bad for Ford and GM shareholders (not to mention the assembly-line workers) since their pickup-truck underpinnings make them profitable even with lots of cash on the hood — and signs are that these sales figures were achieved despite the domestic three continuing to pour on the incentives. Wheeeeeee!

[*] For GM: Buick Enclave, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Equinox and HHR, GMC Acadia, Pontiac Torrent, Saturn Outlook and VUE; for Ford: Ford Edge, Ford Escape, Ford Taurus X, Mercury Mariner, Lincoln MKX.

[**] All other light trucks.

[***] For GM: Buick Rainier, Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Yukon, Hummer H*, Saab 9-7X; for Ford: Ford Explorer and Expedition, Mercury Mountaineer, Lincoln Navigator. [****]

[****] And if this mouthful of overlapping products makes you think that the domestic three's product lines are a basket case, you're right.


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