How far has the U.S. market tilted toward pickups, SUVs and crossovers? Automakers are on pace to sell more than 10 million light trucks in a single calendar year for the first time. Meanwhile, car sales are on pace to fall below 7 million this year for the first time since 2011 and only the fourth time since 1962.
So while it’s increasingly unlikely that 2016 will beat last year’s record for total light-vehicle volume, sales of the big vehicles that generate the bulk of many automakers’ profits are at an all-time high. From that perspective, with gasoline prices expected to remain low and SUV sales still rising, 2017 could be even better for the bottom line. Through October, overall new-vehicle sales were 0.3 percent short of last year’s record-setting pace. But light-truck sales were 7.1 percent higher than in the first 10 months of 2015. At that rate, trucks would account for 10.6 million units out of 17.4 million units. (Industry sales totaled 17.47 million units in 2015.)