Toyota recently jumped Ford to take the #2 spot for auto sales in July. Ford passenger car sales are actually up 3.2% over last year but their light truck sales are down a staggering 16.2% over last year. Meanwhile Toyota passenger car and light truck sales are up 12.5% and 8.4%, respectively.
Are the SUV and daily driver pickup truck finally starting to die? The F-Series pickup truck sales were down 45.6%! Explorer sales were also off. Then again, Toyota's SUVs didn't seem to have issue selling.
Toyota also has a significant advantage in the minivan market. The Ford Freestar just isn't selling like the Windstar did and Toyota's Sienna is still meeting demand after the run on them two years ago.
Another factor that can't be ignored is that Toyota is the current leader in hybrid sales. The president of Toyota North America recently said his company has sold more U.S. hybrids this year than Cadillac, Buick or Mercedes-Benz has sold cars.* On top of that, the Toyota hybrids are selling at $500 - $1000 over sticker price! Just think about that for a minute. That's pretty astounding.
It looks like Ford and GM are finally going to play catch-up with the hybrids in the coming year or two but by that time they won't have long until Toyota brings out its plug-in hybrid that can be charged over night and deliver somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 MPG or more.
Other gas-conscious auto makers are also increasing their sales over last year. Hyundai is one of them. When we bought our Elantra at the end of 2004, we got it for about $500 under invoice (or about $2000 under sticker). Now the best deal you can find is about $500 under sticker price. Kia is even getting a bump in sales despite their (mostly-perceived) quality control issues.
On the other side of the coin, now is the time to buy the gas-guzzling SUV of your choice. When my wife and I were car shopping, we seriously looked at the Highlander hybrid but had to turn it down because we could get the Jeep Commander at about $6000 less despite their similar sticker prices. I just didn't see us saving $6000 in gas over the life of the vehicle, especially since the Commander only gets driven an average of 5 to 10 miles per day and sometimes more on weekends. You can also get a Ford Expedition right now for $10,000 under sticker but I'm still a little sore at the Expedition for replacing the best SUV ever made.** And poor Dodge picked the wrong time to upsize the Durango so those are selling pretty cheap as well as long as you're ok with an SUV that looks more like a short bus with roughly the same visibility.
So what are your thoughts on current car sales trends? Are SUVs going the way of the muscle car? Are hybrids going to rule the streets? Will American auto makers once again going to have to regroup and shift direction like they did in the early 90's? Is there really any such thing anymore as an "American Auto Maker?" Most of the folks I know who work for an automobile manufacturer work for Toyota and they're working right here in the US.
* Quote not in the acticle. I'm currently verifying this since I've seen it mentioned in multiple places but can't find the actual press release, speech, or interview where this was said.
** That would be the Bronco for those of you playing at home.