The End of an Era

By Igor Holas

06.03.2008

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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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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3 Comments

  1. THIS IS A TOUGH PILL TO SWALLOW FOR FORD. THEY HAVE BEEN CAUGHT ON THE BACK FOOT WITH THE DEMANDS OF THE NEW MARKET.

  2. Some on Autoblog and Jalopnik think then some customers probably fait for the upcoming new Duratec 3.7L or the EcoBoost engines coming from F-150 and the coming of the F100 and a smaller upcoming diesel engine for the F150. Then I doubt the Civic will lead for 31 years with what some rivals like Mazda and Hyundai now offers. Hyundai have a interesting bang for the bucks and Mazda had keep the “fun-to-drive” image then the Civic….once had in the past.

    The spike of Mazda sales despite a smaller dealer network in the US (the Canadian Mazda dealer network is bigger) could be a hint of things to come at Mazda.

    Also, more trivia the Civic is currently the best-seller in Canada but the closest 2nd is the Mazda 3 and in the province of Quebec, the Mazda 3 outsold the Civic! (Maybe some get tired to see dozens of Civics in the roads here or they chosed the Mazda who’s less costly to insure since the Civic insurances rates is more higher in Quebec due to the Civic popularity with thiefs)

    In the early 1990s for all Canadian provinces, it was the J-body Cavalier/Sunfire who was the Canadian best-seller and the Civic leaded in Quebec. Now then the Mazda 3 is the more popular in Quebec, will the 3 grab one day the #1 best-seller in Canada?

    I couldn’t resist to post a quote spotted on Jalopnik by Corvette Thunder: “Point being, although right now the Japanese manufacturers have the advantage with many small cars, what will happen in a few years when cars like the Civic have bloated to the size of a current Impala?”

    Now then the Civic had reached the size of early 1990s Accords and Accord who reached almost the size of 1978-87 GM G-body (Cutlass, Regal,…), there some chances then the prediction might came true

  3. I’m a big Ford fan, and I’m rooting for them to turn everything around, but they shoulda seen this coming from a long ways off.

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