The car industry has been in extreme turmoil since the start of the year. First, car companies were hit by pent-up demand from people who could not shop during the pandemic. Then, the shortage of semiconductor chips used in vehicle electronic systems choked off supply. Manufacturers started to shutter assembly lines, and their revenues and forecasts for the balance of the year fell.
A solid year in the U.S. car industry is when 17 million cars and light trucks are sold. Cox Automotive forecasts that shortages of vehicles will push that down to slightly over 12 million. There is a very good chance that will not change in early 2022. One consequence of these shortages is that both new and used car prices have risen to the highest levels in history. The number of years people keep cars rose to an average of 11.9 in 2020. That also may be a consequence of the new car shortage.
Despite the shortages, car-buying patterns have not changed much. A decade ago, people increasingly bought fewer sedans and more sport utility vehicles, crossovers and pickups. One theory about why this happened was a decline in gasoline prices. Sedans generally get better gas mileage. The problem was so severe that Ford abandoned almost its entire line of cars in favor of its hot-selling pickups and SUVs
Research website Good Car/Bad Car looked at sales by car model in the United States through the first three-quarters of 2021. The three American full-sized pickups usually top the list. So far this year, that is true again. The best-selling vehicle in America for four decades has been the Ford F-Series pickup. It led the first three-quarters again with sales of 534,830. It was followed by the Ram pickup at 434,773. In third place was GM’s pickup flagship, the Chevy Silverado.
One of the most notable items of car news this year is that the Ford F-Series will have an electric engine version, an acknowledgment by Ford that the future may well not be gasoline-powered engines.