Despite a slow start, the Ford F-Series pickup line is set to close the books on 2015 on a high note. When final figures are reported tomorrow, the full-size line-up is expected to mark its 39th consecutive year as the nation’s best-selling truck and its 34th year in a row as the top-selling vehicle overall.
The F-Series is expected to maintain a solid lead over its two key rivals, General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado and the Ram pickup from Fiat Chrysler.
Whether Ford can keep the momentum going is far from certain. It faces increasingly tough domestic competition and challenges from Asia, as well. Nissan ended 2015 with the launch of an all-new medium-duty Titan XD, with a light-duty to follow. And Toyota is working up an all-new version of its Tundra pickup, as well.
But Ford demonstrated in 2015 that its big truck could roll over even the toughest obstacles. It entered the year with an all-new version of its light duty F-150 line. The aluminum-bodied truck offered segment-leading fuel economy and other advantages, but some buyers were hesitant about trading in because of worries about potential maintenance and repair costs.
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And Ford struggled to complete the extensive changeovers required to outfit its two F-150 plants to handle the truck’s all-new, aluminum-intensive bodies.
So, despite the big surge in demand for trucks this past year, sales of the F-150 rose a relatively modest 2.3% through November, to 695,143.
But once the plants were up-and-running, the Detroit maker amped up its marketing campaign, touting the new F-150’s balance of fuel efficiency and capabilities. It also hyped its expanded line-up of turbocharged EcoBoost engines.
The push paid off. In November, Ford sold 65,192 copies of the F-150 alone, marking the light-duty truck’s best month all year. Work in the rest of the F-Series line-up, including models such as the F-250 and F-350, and sales were up 10% for the first 11 months of the year. Initial signs are that the entire F-Series line ended 2015 with a double-digit gain.
Kelley Blue Book is forecasting an 11.2% increase in overall Ford sales for December.
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For the first 11 months of 2015, Chevrolet sold 537,552 Silverado pickups, both light, medium and heavy-duty, a 13.9% year-over-year increase.
Fiat Chrysler, meanwhile, sold 407,981 of its Ram pickups, a 3.1% gain.
Toyota and Nissan lagged well in the back of the pack. But they both are shooting for big gains in 2016.
The truck segment, as a whole, had a great year, 2015 sales boosted by both cheap gasoline and a surge in housing demand, always a strong factor in the commercial side of the market. Ford reported November truck sales, including commercial vans, hit their highest number in eight years.
How things will fair for the truck market in 2016 is somewhat uncertain. There are some headwinds. The economy has been strong, but the recent stutter in the stock market suggests its recovery remains uncertain. And while fuel prices have continued to dip, it’s anyone’s guess whether that trend will hold, or if it will suddenly reverse.
(To see more about the expected sales increases in December, Click Here.)
As for Ford, even as the maker has finally gained acceptance for its aluminum F-150, it is getting ready to change over its heavy-duty models to the lightweight material. Ford will continue to pitch the benefits of aluminum, but fleet buyers are particularly focused on operating costs and will have to be convinced they’ll be in positive territory with the new design.