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Who won the muscle, pickup, minivan, and SUV wars?

by David Zatz on

Only U.S. sales are considered in this story. Ford was the only automaker to wait until Monday to report sales.

First, the 2019 US sales totals: GM, 2.9 million; Toyota and Ford, 2.4 million; FCA, 2.2 million; Honda, 1.6 million. FCA’s market share, compared with its traditional rivals, was higher than its traditional place, and with good tail-winds and fast factory construction, FCA could honestly beat Ford.

In the original muscle-car wars, the Dodge Challenger was never more than an also-ran, surpassed by pretty much all competitors (including the Dodge Charger, Plymouth Road Runner, and Plymouth Duster). But in today’s world, the Challenger is, well, a real challenger. In 2019, Dodge sold a respectable 60,997 Challengers—down 9% from 2018. Chevrolet didn’t do as well, selling just 48,265 Camaros. Nevertheless, Dodge was only a challenger, not a winner, when compared with Ford—they  sold 72,489 Mustangs.

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Dodge can at least claim the most power (797 hp, from a mainline, factory-warrantied, Dodge-badged version). But with 324,780 sales, Ford beat FCA in “traditional” cars overall. Ford’s real seller was the Fusion (166,045), followed by the Mustang and then the Fiesta (60,148). The Focus and Taurus barely registered (okay, both outsold all Fiats combined, but still).

Unsurprisingly, Ford won the pickup sales war; the company’s aluminum-bodied pickups absolutely dominate the segment, but then again, Ford dominated with steel bodies, too. The widest range of pickups and options coupled with loyal customers and terrific marketing all combined to keep Ford comfortably in the lead in 2019. GM must be a bit concerned now, as Ram pickups easily outsold the Silverado line, 633,694 to 575,600.

ford f150

To be fair, when Honda and Toyota were outselling the Caravan and Town & Country, we pointed out that since the Chrysler minivans were then identical under the skin, it made sense to combine them. If we apply that logic to GM, then we have to toss in the 232,323 GMC Sierras to the Chevrolets, and then we come up with GM beating FCA handily—809,923 to 633,694. For Ram to beat Chevrolet is significant, but in the end, GM still beat FCA. And, of course, Ford beat all of them, 896,526 to 809,923 to 633,694. Whether Ford can still beat GM (as a whole) in 2020 is another question; but FCA doesn’t have the plant capacity to be #1 or #2. Nor is that likely to be their goal—FCA is looking for profits.

Dodge was the absolute winner of the minivan sales contest, with 122,648 Grand Caravans finding new owners. No, that’s not a lot by truck standards, but they were all on the same body, with the same engine and transmission, and outsold all the various Challengers by around 2:1. The #2 best selling minivan was, sadly, not the Pacifica; it was the Honda Odyssey, coming in at 99,113 (down 7%), beating the Pacifica’s 97,705 sales. (If any Voyagers were sold, they’re presumably included in those numbers.) Finally, Toyota limped in with 73,585 Siennas; their only consolation might be that Kia is still far, far away from Toyota’s #4 spot, selling just 14,380 minivans (down 14%) in all of 2019.

Jeep triumphed over Ford big-time when it comes to the classic Grand-Cherokee-vs-Explorer competition. The Explorer used to dominate SUVs, but for 2019, Jeep sold 242,969 Grand Cherokees while Ford only eked out 168,309 Explorers. Ford did sell 241,388 Escapes, which topped Jeep’s 191,397 Cherokees, but not by quite so high a margin; and Jeep also sold 228,032 Wranglers. (Really, though, Toyota has the last laugh with over 400,000 RAV4s.)

In big cars, the four-door Charger gained by 21%, landing at 96,934; Chevy sold 44,978 Impalas and 131,917 Malibus. The Taurus, as one would expect, barely registered. Both Lincoln cars combined hit 24,311. When it comes to selling sedans and coupes, though, the Japanese still dominated, with just two Toyotas beating all Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo cars, crossovers, and minivans combined; while Honda’s Civic and Accord weren’t quite that popular, the two hit 593,217 sales, which was enough, again, to beat four FCA brands combined (577,349). Fortunately, Jeep came in with 923,291 sales and Ram followed with 703,023. (Ram did quite well with trucks, but Ford is the van king, with 154,868 Transits to Ram’s 56,409 ProMasters, and 41,598 Connects to Ram’s 12,920 Citys.)

fleet vans - ProMaster City

Those watching Kia, incidentally, may be interested in seeing that while none of their vehicles broke into six digits (100,000+), five came fairly close. The best seller was the Soul small SUV (91,101), which easily beat the Renegade and 500X combined; it was followed closely by the Optima (89,482), which would compete against the Chrysler 200 if there was one. Next up was the Sorento crossover (88,632), which roughly goes up against the Cherokee, and then the Forte (87,974), which would go up against the Dart. Finally, the Sportage registered 80,852. Kia as a whole had 564,109 sales, enough to beat Dodge and Chrysler combined, which is a worrying thought. Hyundai sold 688,771 cars year to date, too (they are part of the same company), for a total of 1.25 million sales compared with FCA’s 2.2 million.

Overall, 2019 was a surprisingly good sales year for FCA, given that the company is still waiting for new four-cylinder engines to reach all its vehicles, is still moving factories around, is still trying to figure out how to market its newer minivans, and has some product (mainly Journey and 500) long overdue for replacement.


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