The End of an Era
By Igor Holas
Last month, when the Toyota Camry, having surpassed the Silverado, came precariously close to matching the monthly sales of the F-series, analysts began anticipating that May would be a month to be remembered. For decades, the sales charts have been topped by the F-series and for years, the top three have reliably been the F-series, Silverado, and Camry.
That all changed in May 2008.
During May, Ford announced a radical restructuring initiative, and GM did the same today. Both firms went on record saying the market was showing a “tipping point” in consumer behavior, as they rapidly abandoned SUVs and trucks and fully embraced cars and crossovers. CEOs of both companies declared that they believed the move from trucks to cars was structural and permanent; and that they did not expect the SUV and truck markets to rebound, ever. May delivered a perfect evidence of this shift: within a single month, the Ford F-series went from #1 seller in the country to #5, overtaken by four Japanese-made sedans.
This is not a minor reshuffling of the sales charts; this is a paradigm shift in the sales of new vehicles in the US. A half-ton V8 truck was just unceremoniously dethroned by four-cylinder front wheel drive sedans; the Civic, Corolla, Camry and Accord (in that order) trampled the F-series and completely reshaped the US marketplace.
No matter if you root for the trucks, or support more fuel efficient alternatives, this is the month that should finally, and permanently change our perception of the automotive market, including all of the players: the companies, the customers, and the government. This month will hopefully send a wake up call to those among us who believe that this industry is not consumer-driven, to those who believe that gas prices are going to drop again, and to those that in any other shape or form refuse to accept the new reality. Gas is $4 a gallon, and the best selling vehicle in the US is Honda Civic. Will the Civic reign on top of the sales charts for 31 years? Only time will tell, but I’m guessing that the F-150’s feat will be difficult to repeat in coming years.
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