Auto sales in America plunged at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, collapsing from April through the fall. Dealers began to open slowly, and more people ordered cars online, which helped a strong recovery during the fourth quarter. That recovery extended into 2021. In fact, the industry should make a full recovery this year.
Parts of the auto industry landscape have changed. Electric cars are no longer a novelty. Tesla produced 500,000 cars last year. American manufacturers have started to have success with vehicles, led by the Chevy Bolt EV. Ford’s Mustang Mach-E, introduced last year, has posted brisk sales. Almost every major global manufacturer expects much of its model lines to be all-electric by the end of the decade.
A trend that started a decade ago and has not changed this year is a preference for sport utility vehicles, crossovers and pickups. Sedan sales have steadily dropped recently. Ford has stopped selling most of its sedans in the United States. Among the top 10 selling vehicles in America for the first quarter of 2021, only two were sedans. These were the Toyota Camry, which sold 78,151 units, and the Toyota Corolla, which sold 72,520.
The best-selling vehicle by far in the first quarter of this year was the Ford F-Series. It sold 203,797 units in the period. The F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for 39 years. The full-sized pickup has a number of models. The base model sells for $28,940. One version of the F-150 sells for over $70,000.
One challenge car companies will have is to covert pickups, SUVs and crossovers to electric engines. The change has begun to be successful with sedans like the Tesla Model 3. Whether the public wants electric engines in the largest vehicles it now favors will be an open question, perhaps for several years.