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Neither Toyota nor GM makes America’s best-selling car

Ford F-150
The best-seller, but make it electric.
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For the first time in nearly a century, General Motors has been dethroned as America’s leading automaker. Toyota—which handled the chip crunch better than its rivals by stockpiling beforehand—sold 2.3 million vehicles in 2021, while GM shifted 2.2 million.

But neither of these behemoths makes America’s top-selling vehicle. For the past 40 years, that’s been a Ford. And not just any Ford, but the F-150 pickup truck. In fact, pickups are the top three best-selling cars in the US, with the F-150 followed by the Ram and a Chevy.

The Ford F-150’s popularity is electrifying

Through lockdowns and supply chain disruption, Ford prioritized production of its best-selling F-150 and other pickups in the same lineup. And it paid off. Ford sold 663,508 F-Series trucks through November this year.

As a company, Ford grew even more than Tesla last year, with its market cap boosted by an electric version of its storied pickup, the F-150 Lightning.

Yesterday (Dec. 4), Ford’s stock surged 12% to a 20-year-high after it announced it was doubling the factory capacity for this new battery-powered variant to 150,000 annually. Customers can place orders for this highly anticipated pickup, which has already racked up 200,000 reservations, from tomorrow (Dec. 6).

America’s love for pickups

Despite the F-150’s roaring success, Ford still trails Toyota and GM. It sold 1.9 million vehicles in 2021, down 6.8% from a year ago. Tapping into America’s love for pickups would help the two leaders maintain, and even increase, their lead. After all, it has been the saving grace for other brands. For instance, sales for most Stellantis models shrunk, but Ram pickup sales climbed up 4% in 2021.

In the year ending October 2021, a pickup truck was the best-selling vehicle in at least 43 US states.

GM’s electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup is on its way

Toyota’s reign is probably anomalous and could be short-lived. As the global semiconductor shortage eases, GM will come back on track. Even Toyota’s senior vice president of operations in North America, Jack Hollis, said that overtaking GM is “not our goal, nor do we see it as sustainable.” And pickup trucks will have a key role in GM’s resurgence.

Already, GM’s Chevrolet and GMC trucks eclipse Toyota’s Tacoma and Tundra sales. Last year, it launched the $112,000 electric GMC Hummer for luxury buyers. The demand for Hummer’s electric pickup and SUV variant has been heating up.

Additionally, the electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado, which GM CEO Mary Barra described as “unmatched,” is opening for preorders today (Dec. 5). It will go on sale in 2023 with a price-tag between $40,000 and $50,000—making it a direct rival to the electric Ford F-150.

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