DETROIT—In November, light trucks reached a pinnacle that constantly is pursued but seldom attained: They outsold cars.
Not by much, mind you—the margin was only 573 sales. But carve it in stone: For November, light trucks were the best-selling vehicles in the land.
Light trucks began a string of annual sales records in 1993, and another peak was assured in 2000.
But market share is something else. Cars cling to the lead, although their margin has shrunk from 3.12 million in 1993 to 540,617 in 1999.
However, it is major news when trucks grab the monthly sales title.
It has happened only three times: in November 1998; in December 1999; and this past November, which was the closest of all, when trucks had 50.023 percent of the market and cars had 49.977 percent.
For the first 11 months of last year, cars had a bit more breathing room. They led by 587,354 sales and had a share of 51.8 percent.
For years, sales analysts have been predicting that it is just a matter of time until trucks finally surpass cars in the sales column.
The new-product money is going to trucks, and trucks already dominate the sales scene at Ford Motor Co. (60 percent) and the Chrysler group (71 percent). The truck share of General Motors Corp.'s sales is 49 percent and growing.
Chalk it up
Car and light-truck sales slipped 1.5 percent from last year in October and 3.4 percent in November. But the industry had a sales record to celebrate at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31.
Eleven-month sales, excluding medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, were 16,166,134—higher than any other full year except 1999.
The Nov. 30 total was 792,213 short of 1999's record full-year total of 16,958,347. You have to go back to February 1993 to find a monthly total below 1 million.
To put it another way: In December the industry needed 31,689 deliveries per selling day to break the record. In November, the industry averaged 49,460 sales per selling day.
The seers fear that sales may drop as low as 16 million next year, down about 6 percent from this year. A decline is never good news, but consider: In the 104-year history of the U.S. auto industry, sales have topped 16 million only three times: in 1986, 1999 and 2000.