Truck Buyers Made a Choice in October (and Chose the Bigger One)

So diverse are the trim levels available in a modern pickup truck, it wouldn’t be shocking to see automakers begin offering a “Scotsman” edition, complete with three-on-the-tree shifter, for buyers accustomed to eating beans out of a can. On the other end of the ladder, surely “Limited,” “Platinum,” and “Tungsten” fall short in the luxury trappings offered within their leather-trimmed cabins. Buyers clearly need a wood-panelled humidor for their stogies.

Suffice it to say that automakers are making the purchase of a pickup truck more appealing than ever, and in October, buyers did their duty. October 2017 was a boffo month for light truck sales, with every full-size truck line recording rising year-over-year sales in the United States. Unfortunately, but not all that unfortunately (according to accountants, anyway), buyers offered a raised middle finger to mid-size pickups sold by those same automakers.

How well did trucks perform last month? The perennial frontrunner, Ford’s F-Series, saw sales climb 15.9 percent compared to October 2016. Over at General Motors, the Chevrolet Silverado posted a 6.8-percent sales boost, and its GMC Sierra twin rose 25.5 percent, year-over-year.  Of the Detroit Three, only the Ram line came close to falling behind last year’s tally, posting a 0.7-percent sales gain. (Note: October 2017 featured one less selling day than the same month last year.)

Of the Japanese full-sizers, Toyota’s Tundra climbed 5.1 percent, while Nissan’s Titan line grew its volume to 29.3 percent, helped along by the addition of the huskier Titan XD.

Surely this is reason for smiles all around, no? Not when you factor in midsize truck sales. In the U.S. last month, every model save for one recorded a year-over-year sales hit. Are couples having more children, or has the generous incentives offered on full-sizers simply tipped buyers into a larger vehicle?

Whatever the motivation, buyers stayed away in droves. The class-leading Toyota Tacoma saw its sales fall four-tenths of one percent. The positively ancient (but cheap) Nissan Frontier fell 2.3 percent. Still, fall was even greater at GM. There, sales of the Chevrolet Colorado declined 5.6 percent, with the volume loss not entirely recouped by a 2.7-percent increase in sales of the slower-selling GMC Canyon.

The unibody, front (or all-wheel) drive Honda Ridgeline saw the worst sales decline of the bunch, sinking 19.6 percent.

North of the border, the news was much the same. Canadians took to pickups in even greater numbers in October, with the F-Series line growing a whopping 30 percent, year-over-year. GM Canada saw Silverado sales climb nearly 60 percent, with Sierra volume climbing 32.8 percent. For Ram, it was a slightly more disappointing month north of the border than south, with its Canadian sales sinking 3.2 percent. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles can take solace in the fact that Ram sales are still up 14.4 percent in the Great White North, year-to-date.

The Japanese offerings, which sell in far fewer numbers than in the U.S., also took a sales hit in Canada. Titan sales fell 21.9 percent, year-over-year, while Tundra volume shrunk 10.3 percent.

Canucks are an odd bunch, traditionally taking to smaller vehicles with less trepidation than their southern neighbors. This stereotype bore out in October. Whereas Americans turned their backs on mid-size trucks, the same segment saw significant growth above the 49th Parallel.

Colorado sales climbed 32.2 percent. The Canyon did even better, rising 59.4 percent. Compare that to the 2.4 percent increase enjoyed by the current sales front-runner, the Tacoma. However, the largest rise in popularity was made possible by history buffs flocking to Nissan dealers, resulting in the Frontier’s volume ballooning by over 91 percent.

Still, for all the midsize enjoyment occurring in Canada last month, Honda’s oddball Ridgeline couldn’t find any new suitors. Sales of the little truck headed in the exact opposite direction, falling 14.2 percent.

Depending on which side of the border you’re on, new truck buyers like their trucks either big, or big and less-big. Few of them, it seems, like their trucks unconventional.

A version of this story first appeared at thetruthaboutcars.com

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