During the first half of 2008, pickup sales have dropped 23% compared to the same time period last year. The specialty-equipment industry has long revered the pickup segment for its growth and profit opportunities, but hikes in gasoline prices this year have taken a toll on recent sales.
AutoPacific, an automotive industry consulting firm, predicts that small, or compact, pickups will drop to 503,300 units sold for 2008, a decrease of 8% from 2007. Large pickup sales will endure an even more drastic decline of 20%, according to forecasts, ending 2008 with about 1,700,300 units sold. Overall pickup sales will drop 18% in 2008, according to AutoPacific data.
Still, the compact Ford Ranger and Toyota's Tundra and Tacoma have proven the most resilient among the steep declines, posting only single-digit losses from last year. The table below shows the top 20-selling pickups from January–June of 2008 compared to 2007 sales.
A survey sent to SEMA members earlier this year showed that 70% either manufactured or sold specialty products for large pickups. Though the sales shifts illustrated above are likely to have major impact on SEMA-member companies, the market for used pickups may still hold strong.
Around 57% of enthusiasts who own pickups said that they purchased their vehicle used, according to the Automotive Lifestyle study of automotive enthusiast magazine subscribers administered late last year. SEMA members know that consumers will continue to buy pickups, used and new.
“While it's an indisputable fact that pickup sales have declined drastically in recent months, they have not gone away and will not,” commented Joel Ayres, national marketing director for LEER.
Ayres went on to describe his observation of pickup owners at a recent event at the fairgrounds in Columbia. “Lined up in the parking lot were a dozen fullsize trucks with young men standing around them. Of course this was a beautiful sight to me. They talked to me about the high cost to fill up their trucks, but when I asked about changing vehicles, I got answers from ‘I need it for my work’ to needing the vehicle for pulling a boat or trailer. Some stated that they just plain like their truck."
Looking at those enthusiasts that own pickups, according to the Automotive Lifestyle study, some of the top activities indeed reflect a need for a pickup: 50% said they go camping or hiking; 49% hunting, fishing or shooting; 47% off-roading; and 32% boating or sailing. In addition, the top profession noted by these enthusiasts was “skilled trade,” a line of work that often requires a pickup.
R.L. Polk registration data shows that 12% of all vehicles registered in the United States are, in fact, fullsize pickups. So while new pickup sales are down this year, specialty-equipment companies could still benefit by focusing on current pickup owners.
For more specialty-market research and insight, visit www.sema.org/research.