One would instinctively think that soaring gas prices would eventually change the habits and preferences of car drivers. As puzzling as it may be, however, Americans have yet to get rid of their big cars. In fact, the best-selling vehicle in the Unites States in 2012 was… a pickup truck! Still, Americans are not an isolated case: their northern neighbour also seems to be addicted to big vehicles. Actually, Canada’s best-selling vehicle for 2012 also was a pickup truck!

An upward trend

A U.S. News article written by Meg Handley almost exactly one year ago said that “Americans are buying more SUVs now than ever before”. In effect, while SUVs represented about one in five vehicles sold in the United States throughout the 1990s, this proportion went up to almost one third in the 2000s. The trick may lie in the fact that the kind of SUVs Americans are going for nowadays slightly differ from the ones they used to buy: they are smaller on average and some of them apparently offer equivalent or even better fuel economy than some passenger cars.

Yet, SUVs are not the only type of cars that is evermore popular with Americans: pickup trucks remain a huge hit. Just last year, close to 650,000 Ford F-Series trucks were sold, making the model the #1 seller in the United States for the whole year. The second biggest seller also was a pickup truck, namely, the Chevrolet Silverado. When combined, the sales of both models total more than one million units in 2012 only! The #3 and #4 most sold vehicles, however, were neither SUVs, nor pickup trucks. They nevertheless were relatively large passenger cars.

In effect, the Toyota Camry, which came 3rd, and the Honda Accord, which came 4th, are both mid-size cars. The Honda Civic was the only compact car to make it in the top 5 in the United States for 2012, which remains somewhat of a puzzle when high gas prices are taken into account. If people would probably tend to think that Americans are the only people whose driving habits remain largely dependent on big vehicles, such a presumption would be false. Canadians still go for big vehicles too.

A slightly different leading group

Actually, the top 2 best-selling vehicles in Canada in 2012 were both pickup trucks, just like in the United States. Indeed, the #1 seller also was the Ford F-Series, while the #2 was the Dodge Ram (which came in 7th place in the United States). Yet, some differences between Canadian and American consumers start to be revealed at the #3 position: the third best-seller in Canada was a compact car – namely, the Honda Civic, which only came 5th in the United States as mentioned above.

The #4 best-selling vehicle in Canada in 2012, however, was a much larger car than in the United States (which, as we saw it, elected the Honda Accord): it was a minivan (the Dodge Grand Caravan) that Canadians massively went for after the Ford F-Series, the Dodge Ram, and the Honda Civic. Yet, the 5th most popular car with Canadians last year was a compact car – namely, the Hyundai Elantra.

What stands out from these rankings is that both Americans and Canadians keep going for large vehicles in great numbers. Considering the very high gas prices, these figures may be indicative of the significant improvements the car industry was able to bring to its large models in terms of gas mileage. Yet, Canadians proportionally seem to be more interested in compact cars than Americans: this could be symptomatic of the higher cost of gasoline in Canada than in the United States. This hypothesis remains to be tested, however.

About the author:

Alexandre Duval is a freelance blogger for Standard Life who writes about a variety of topics including financial and retirement planning, cars and travel.