This Is the Best-Selling Vehicle in America 39 Years in a Row

The list of the best-selling vehicles has been tallied now that all major manufacturers have released their 2020 numbers. The Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) F-series full-sized pickup once again held the top spot, although its figure dropped 12%. The next two vehicles on the list were also full-sized pickups, a trend that persisted for years.

The importance of the F-series to Ford cannot be underestimated. It represents over 30% of sales at America’s number two car company. Its importance also counts as a critical part of Ford’s global sales, particularly because the manufacturer does poorly in China, the world’s largest car market.

The F-series encompasses a wide array of models. The base XL model is priced at $28,940. The Limited model costs $73,165. Ford also makes “super duty” versions of the F-series, the F-250 and F-350. However, the F-150 accounts for almost all of the pickup’s sales.

Total F-series sales last year reached 787,422. America’s second best-selling vehicle last year was the full-sized Chevrolet Silverado from General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), at 594,094. It, in turn, was followed by the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) full-sized Ram, with 563,676 units sold.

Other vehicles that topped the list of America’s best-selling vehicles show how Americans have turned away from coupes and sedans to trucks, sport utility vehicles and crossovers. America’s fourth best-selling vehicle was the small, inexpensive Toyota RAV4 crossover at 430,387. Its competitor, the Honda CR-V, follows with sales of 333,502.

The demand for inexpensive high-mileage cars has not disappeared completely. The next best-selling vehicle in America was the Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) Camry, with sales of 294,328.

What remains to be seen is whether full-sized pickups, SUVs and crossovers can hold their places at the top of America’s vehicle sales should gasoline prices soar as they did from 2011 to 2015. Each of those years, the average price for a gallon of regular was above $3.40, rising to $3.70 in 2012, about 60% higher than the price is today. Americans may turn to inexpensive low-price, high-mileage cars again should gas prices spike.

Alternatively, with the rise of electric cars, buyers could turn away from gas-powered cars altogether. Certainly, every large manufacturer that sells cars in America has geared up a line of electric vehicles, many of which will be at dealers within the next year or two. Each company will chase Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) for the time being. It sold 500,000 cars and SUVs in America in 2020.

Among the primary weaknesses of car manufacturers is that they wait too long for changes in demand. Factories could continue to churn out large trucks and SUVs just as consumer needs and demands change. Caught flat-footed again, they will have to alter huge manufacturing plants, which is not something they can accomplish quickly.

For the time being, however, sales of full-sized pickups remain at the core of revenue and profitability for these companies.

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