For decades, the Ford F-150 Full-sized pickup truck has been the bestselling vehicle in the United States, and thus also the vehicle that sold the most units in a single market, regularly selling over 60.000 units per month and even occasionally topping 70.000 units. The only way General Motors has been able to come close to those numbers was by marketing its competing pickup truck under two nameplates: Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. But now, General Motors looks set to take that crown from Ford, but it’s not because new generations of the GM pickups have just been introduced. The threat comes from far left-field: minivans!
The segment created by Chrysler some 30 years ago, has struggled for years in the United States. In 2000, 1.37 million minivans (called MPVs in Europe) were sold, but that has dropped to around 500.000 units a year since. Wait, 500.000 a year? That means the Ford F-150 outsells all minivans on the market combined. How can a single minivan even come close to the pickup truck? The answer is: China.
A Chinese minivan is outselling the Ford F-150?
General Motors has a 44% share in the Joint Venture SAIC-GM-Wuling Co., which produces and sells small minivans in China under the Wuling brand. These minivans are in high demand in China’s fast-growing car market, selling close to 1,5 million Wuling cars in 2012. The brand’s sales in November 2013 rose 25% year-on-year to 135,830 units, thanks to strong demand for its Hongguang minivan, which sold an unbelievable 60.168 units in November (up 149% on last year). Now compare that to 65.501 Ford F-150 sales in the United States (up 16% on last year) and you see the picture. In fact, the Wuling Hongguang has already outsold the Ford F-150 twice this year, in January (47.765 vs. 46.841) and February (64.096 vs. 45.489).
While the F-150 will remain the undisputed sales leader in the United States, with the new generation due in American showrooms before next summer, its sales crown of the biggest seller in a single country may be up for grabs by Ford’s cross-town rival. In 2013 year-to-date, the big Ford is still way in the lead with 688,810 units sold in the United States from January till November, compared to 406.711 Wuling Hongguang sold in China in the same period, but 2014 may paint a different picture.
Update february 14th 2014:
Ford F-150 2013 US sales: 763.402 vs. Wuling Hongguang 2013 China sales: 488.484.
Ford F-150 January 2014 US sales: 46.536 vs. Wuling Hongguang January 2014 China sales: 81.153.
What about profits?
Don’t expect Ford to lose any sleep over this contest, because it’s still enjoying a fat profit margin of $8.000 to $10.000 on every F-150 sold in the US (and Canada), thanks to popular high-end versions like the King Ranch, Platinum and Limited, which retail for over $ 50.000.
In comparison, GM’s Wuling Hongguang sells at prices of RMB 44.800 ($6.600) to RMB 60.800 ($9.000). Ford is making more profit margin on a single F-150 sold in the US than GM is selling their minivan for in China. And at an expected volume of over 750.000 pickup trucks this year (and another 120.000 in Canada), that means the F-150 is the cork that keeps Ford afloat, accounting for around 75% of Ford’s North American profits.
Now who’s laughing?