J.D. Power Predicts Pickup Truck Sales Will Sizzle

by , Mar 26, 2007, 5:06 AM
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The pickup truck market will sizzle this year, thanks to Chevy's Silverado and Toyota's Tundra, both relaunched within the last few months. Toyota's Tundra, on sale for just shy of two months, is living up to the company's predictions that it would keep current owners and win converts, while consumer loyalty for domestic brands is still strong.

According to J.D. Power and Associates' PIN (Power Information Network) study for the first two months of the year, 53% of owners of late-model Tundras shopping for a new pickup bought the new Tundra, over twice the return rate of its predecessor.

Tundra is also luring buyers from other brands, per the consultancy--although consumers are paying more on average for the Tundra than for competitors. The national average transaction price for the truck in the first two months was $33,182, per JD Power--about $900 more than Ford's F-150, $1,450 more than Chevy Silverado, $7,618 more than Dodge's Ram pickup, and $5,518 more than Nissan's Titan. The consultancy predicts that Tundra's sales this year will be in the neighborhood of 210,000--nearly double last year's sales.

Still, that's a far cry from the domestics, whose yearly truck sales last year were more than 1.64 million vehicles. Sales data from the PIN study suggests that Ford and GM owners are still highly loyal, with Silverado and F-150 loyalty number up 4% from January to February this year, per the consultancy. Owner loyalty for Chrysler Group's Dodge Ram is flat.

The result of increased loyalty for Toyota and the domestic makes has boosted pickup-truck share of the US new-vehicle, from 12.4 in January to 14.4% last month.

Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at the consultancy, says the news means a much better year for truck makers because competitive ads and incentives environment will stimulate the market.

"We see, overall, this year trucks will be up 5%," he says. The consultancy is predicting automakers will sell 2.36 million new pickup trucks this year versus 2.25 million last year. "We have seen, in the first two months, the overall industry is down 2.4% while non-luxury pickups are up 1%," he says.

Libby says Ford will certainly respond to the fact that, for the first time, Chevrolet's Silverado has outsold the Ford F-150--the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. for decades--for the past two months. "The Silverado will drive Ford sales because Ford has to respond," he says, adding that the last time Silverado edged out F-150 for the top pickup spot was in 2005, when GM rolled out its employee pricing incentive push.

"Ford will accelerate incentives, because they won't relinquish that number-one spot," he says. "They will do what it takes. It will be a brutally competitive situation, and the winners will be consumers because the incentives will be huge."

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