There’s no need to tell you that cars are going the way of the birds. Ford, GM, and Chrysler are all stopping production of their sedans and cars, save for the Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, and Challenger. The Ford Focus is becoming a crossover-like vehicle called the Focus Active. Whatever that is.
I also do not have to tell you how important the F-150 is as a whole to Ford. With 909,330 trucks sold in the United States in 2018 and that total climbs to nearly 1.1 million as a whole when you count worldwide sales. The F-Series trucks have been the best selling truck for 42 years now, and it doesn’t look like that’ll change any time soon.
In the U.S. in 2017 Ford pushed 896,754 trucks off their lots, and 820,799 in 2016.
Let’s now talk General Motors. While sales for the Silverado were stronger in 2017, Chevrolet still found homes for 531,158 of those trucks in 2018, while GMC had a nice uptick with 224,554 Sierras driving off the lots, respectively. There was no year like 2017 for Chevrolet, though, as 585,864 Silverados rocked their way down the road, and then 217,943 Sierras sold, too. In 2016 GM sold 520,604 Silverados and 198,390 Sierras.
Now we move on to Ram, or what once was a Dodge Ram. Then Dodge RAM. Now just RAM. Strong sales have always been the name of the game for Dodge, too, as they’ve sold 536,980 in 2018, 500,723 in 2017, and 441,862 in 2016.
It must be said, the Ram pickup has always played third fiddle, in the early 2010s it was outside the top 5 vehicles sold. In 2014 it climbed to the third best selling vehicle in the U.S., and amazingly in 2018, finally beat the Silverado. You see, for a long, long time the F-Series and Silverado pickups were always one and two in yearly sales. While Silverado sales fell from 600,544 in 2015, it still sells better than any other car or truck.
So the three best selling vehicles in the U.S. are trucks.
When it comes down to it, cars aren’t dead. Not yet, at least. And, realistically, neither are sports cars, especially the Camaro, Challenger, or Mustang. Car and Driver have a great infographic detailing the sales of the Mustang and Camaro from 1964 until 2014. From 2014 to current, there are a few interesting details. Sadly, I can’t seem to find this data for the Charger and Challenger over the same period of time, only from 2008 to current.
From 1965 until 1969, the Chevrolet and Ford sold as many Camaros and Mustangs as they do trucks these days.
In 2002 General Motors stopped selling the Camaro and Firebird (basically the same car at this point, save for a different nose and taillights, and a few other random bits), and in 2004 Pontiac were allowed to bring back the GTO, with the help of GM’s Australian division, Holden. But, that only lasted until 2006, when they let that car die, too. Total sales over those three years came to 40,808 cars.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that the GTO actually infused a new way of thinking for modern muscle/pony car fans. These cars could actually handle corners with the likes of a BMW M3 (the Cadillac CTS-V debuted in 2004 with the same approach, but just built in America without any involvement from Holden in Australia), and that’s when everyone started to see these cars differently.
Now, in 2019, any of the Detroit Three’s sportiest offerings can command upwards of $70,000 new. The ZL1 1LE can set you back a cool $76,000; The GT350R a nice $72,000; And the Challenger Hellcat Redeye a whopping $96,000. All cars are priced loaded, of course.
I am no stranger to trucks, especially since I live in the south. I have not personally owned one, but each member of my family, save for one older brother, has had multiple trucks to their name. I prefer sports cars as my daily drivers, but that does not mean I haven’t borrowed and extensively used every truck my significant family have owned.
These days, a performance truck is the same price as a performance car.
When you consider a “performance” truck, it means that it’s more off-road ready than a normal version. A performance car has more track-focused bits and pieces that make it purposeful. Both, however, are basically useless on normal roads. Regardless, we eat this stuff up. I know I do… since my daily driver is a 2017 GT350.
Chevy’s version of a performance truck would be the new Silverado Trail Boss, which starts at $42,490, including handling fees. Ford’s version is the F-150 Raptor (more in that in a bit), which bases out at $54,540. Ram also offer a competitor called the Rebel, and it can be had from $47,530. All trucks were optioned as completely standard with the top of the line V8.
All three of those trucks, though, can be had for well over $60,000. In the Silverado’s case, a little over $65,000. The Ford, well, heh, actually a touch over $76,000 if you start clicking like you’re configuring a Porsche 911. And the Ram Rebel can push it to the tune of $64,000.
The Ford Mustang GT starts at $35,355, the Camaro SS at $37,995, and the Challenger R/T is the cheapest on this list at $34,295. Each one of these cars will reach $50,000 when loaded up. That’s in-line with the average purchase price of a new truck bought or leased in America. So a truck and a sports car are the same price, will have similar fuel economy, but the truck will be much more usable, and the sports car will be far more fun.
If the Big 3’s muscle offerings were one whole car, in 2018 they would have been the 22nd best selling car in America with 193,521 vehicles sold. Above it is the Hyundai Elantra with 200,415 units moved. The Dodge Challenger’s sales have held their own, but the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro have dropped significantly in recent years. It’s a major shame, but it’s the way the world works these days.
The thought that trucks were the modern day muscle car wars didn’t occur to me until last June when Ford sent me a Raptor to use and test for my wedding. It took up way more of the driveway than my personal 2015 Mustang GT PP did at the time (I sold that car for the Shelby), and it was still fast, but way more usable in literally every condition or situation. I like to say that I don’t need a truck because my Mustangs have been perfectly fine for everyday use. My wife, on the other hand, loved driving it, as she felt in command of the road. It was big, safe, could hold all of our family and friends, and especially the crap we took to and from the wedding and reception. I mean, come on, the truck also had heated, cooled, and massaging seats. That’s absurdly awesome for a vehicle that’s as capable as the Raptor is.
While the idea of muscle trucks occurred to me as I was testing the Raptor, the idea, which I’m sure someone has had before me, really hit home when I saw that people are now customizing their F-150s to look like a 1969 and 1970 Mach 1 Mustang with the rear window louvers. Michigan Vehicle Solutions created the Aero X, a bed cap for 2015 and newer F-150s that gives the truck a hatchback-like feel, and the look of an old Mustang. Weird? Yes. Cool? I’m digging it more and more, yes. They’re expecting to roll it out later for every pickup in the American market. It costs from $3995, and it comes paint matched with real side windows.
In testing by MotorTrend, the Chevy Silverado Trail Boss hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and ran through the quarter mile in 15 flat at 93.2 mph. Car and Driver took the Ram Rebel and showed it has the same performance as the Silverado, with a 0-60 mph time 6.4 seconds and a quarter mile run at 15 seconds, but at 96 mph versus the Chevy’s 93 miles per hour. Car and Driver also took the Ford Raptor to the track to see what it would do, and it ran a 5.1-second 0-60, then ran through the 1/4-mile at 13.8 seconds at 100 mph. (It should be noted that this test was for the 2017 SuperCrew, which I had a 2018 SuperCrew. The 2019 Raptor comes with new suspension, standard active suspension, Recaro front seats, and a few other goodies. That test showed the Crewcab version to be slower at 5.7 seconds to 60 and a 14.5 second 1/4 mile time at 94 mph.)
When it comes down to it, you can either get a car or a truck. I don’t dislike or hate anyone that chooses a truck, but it’s not the complete package for me. I love having my manual gearbox, and I can get quite grumpy without it.
Having tested the F-150 Raptor I can’t believe how much fun it is to drive, and it’s customizable beyond belief. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that that is “shared” with the Ford GT is a very good motor, making 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. All power is pushed through a jointly-developed transmission with GM, 10-speed automatic with paddles. Sadly, though, the 10-speed is pretty boring, especially when shifting manually. In fact, oddly, when shifting yourself via the paddles the truck actually feels slower and shifts are far inferior to just leaving it to the computer to handle.
One thing that really struck me was how comfortable it was to drive the Raptor. A regular F-150 rides better, but I couldn’t believe that this is basically a racing truck throw on the street, and it’s compliant and is only mildly harsher than Platinum and Limited trim levels. I would actually argue that I like the rougher more ready ride of the Raptor, as the other models for the same price ride like a boat on smooth seas. My dad is on his third F-150 Platinum since 2012. He had a 2012 2WD model, then a 2015 4WD, and now an ’18 4WD. He grew up as a General Motors man. His dad would only buy GM products, and his mom only wanted a Cadillac. So, subsequently, he only ever bought GM cars and trucks, save for a couple of BMW 7s and Benz SLs thrown in the mix. Now, though, after owning nothing but Chevy and GMC trucks, as well as a stupid amount of Escalades and Escalade ESVs, he won’t buy anything but a Ford truck. He had a 2014 Silverado Z71 when the new body debuted, but he just didn’t enjoy it as his daily car.
My dad is by no means a southern man, having been born and raised in Washington, DC, and parts of Maryland. Hell, I still can’t get him to stop wearing business clothes. He dresses to the nines or in business casual and drives a pickup truck. Here was a man that, for so many of my years, drove nothing but Cadillac sedans, including an ’09 CTS-V, and 7-Series BMWs (one time he leased a 535i and regretted it for no real reason). He currently has a 2017 Audi R8 V10, 2018 F-150 Platinum, 1979 Pontiac Trans-Am Restomod, 1967 Corvette Restomod, and 2019 BMW M850i, and my mom has a 2019 BMW X5 50i. The F-150 and the X5 get the most use. And the F-150 isn’t used to haul anything, really.
It is a sign of the times. The biggest vehicle for a simple job is still the best, I guess.
While I am a sports car guy through and through, after driving and fully using a Raptor for the week of my wedding, with meetings all over town, people to pick up, dinners to eat, and family to see, I totally get it. The Raptor was faster than what I needed, but it was exceptionally perfect at doing anything and still very fun to drive. Sure, it’s not the greatest in a downtown area, but it’s still good around a back road. Add to that the Bang & Olufson sound system (a $4900 option in an Audi), which is part of the 802A package which adds 25 other options to the Raptor, is a fantastic way of making sure none of the outside world interferes with what you’re trying to enjoy inside your truck.
What have we learned? If anything, hopefully, it’s that sports cars are still worth it in 2019. But, realistically, we’ve just been shown a bunch of data to prove that trucks aren’t going away any time soon, and sports cars may. Yay…
Next time on Let’s Talk, we’ll go over why crossovers are taking over the world, even though they’re actually just lifted wagons and sedans of the cars manufacturers are giving up on. Why? Because they can upcharge you because you think it’s a sport utility.