Curbside Newsstand: The Pickup Market – Where They’re Hot and Who’s Buying Them

I’m planning on a more detailed analysis of the 2020 automotive market when the numbers are available, but since we’ve been talking about pickups, here’s some stats from 2019 and the results of some studies of the market in 2020 so far. This chart from 2019 shows pickup market share by state, color-coded. Not a huge surprise, given that the states with the lowest urban populations are bound to have the highest pickup share. The national share in 2019 was a bit over 20%, but that’s almost certainly going to be higher in 2020, as pickup sales have been torrid this year.

But I should note that this chart is not indicative of the hottest trend in 2020: young, affluent urban buyers are driving the demand for expensive new pickups more than ever, and no, they’re not planning to haul hay in them. So if the current trends continue, this chart may well look a bit different within a couple of years.

In 2019, here’s the ranking for household income for buyers of new pickups:

  1. $250k – $350k
  2. $200k – $250k
  3. $160k – $200k
  4. $450k – $750k

So if you’re wondering why the average price of pickup prices keeps soaring, and why the hottest segment is the high end ones ($70k +), here’s your answer.

(update: this chart from Experian only reflects Q1 sales)   Here’s a look at how different states prefer certain brands. And there’s some real eye-openers. Look at Missouri: Ford had no less than 73% of the pickup market! And Toyota had 27% of the pickup market in California, more than any other brand.  Oklahoma has a real thing for Rams.

All I can say is that as in so many other things, tribalism is alive and well when it comes to pickup brand preference.

Statistics for 2020 full year are not in yet. But there are some interesting trends. Given the bifurcation of the economy, those on the lower income strata and more likely affected negatively by the pandemic are feeling more constrained in their ability to buy new pickups. But they’re more than being offset by young professional millennials and Gen Z buyers who in many cases have more disposable income as a result of the pandemic.

This from a CarGurus 2020 Pickup study:

Data shows the COVID-19 pandemic may have helped spur pickup truck sales over the course of 2020. This was especially true among younger buyers, drawn to the sense of escapism trucks offered.

• 26% of those who bought a pickup truck during the pandemic had not planned to before. Among them, over half (15%) were originally planning to buy a car, but decided to buy a truck instead.

• Younger shoppers helped fuel demand for pickups during the pandemic. Trucks offered these buyers a fun escape from the suburbs or cities.

   o Pandemic truck buyers were 24% more likely to be Gen Z or millennials compared to previous truck owners.

   o Pandemic truck buyers were more 10% more likely to live in suburbs and 30% more likely to live in cities compared to previous truck owners. o Gen Z/millennials were 2x more likely than older pandemic truck buyers to had been originally planning to buy a car prior to the pandemic.

   o Gen Z/millennials that bought during the pandemic were more likely to say they bought a truck for road trips (40% vs. 31% of older pandemic buyers), and to treat themselves (29% vs. 18% of older pandemic buyers). They were also more likely to cite their stimulus check as a driver to purchase (24% vs. 15% of older pandemic buyers).

Young affluent urban buyers of pickups; the hot new demographic. Which also explains why there’s a lot of excitement about the coming EV pickups within this demographic:

• Younger truck owners are leading the demand for electric trucks:

   o 18% of Gen Z/millennial truck owners say they will probably/definitely own an electric truck in the next year, compared to 10% of older truck owners.

   o 30% of Gen Z/millennial truck owners say they will probably/definitely own an electric truck in the next five years, compared to 12% of older truck owners.

   o 40% of Gen Z/millennial truck owners say they will probably/definitely own an electric truck in the next ten years, compared to 26% of older truck owners.

What’s the conclusion? Pickups are the hot category, and the demographics of new pickup buyers is steadily evolving, upwards in income and downwards, in age. They are increasingly affluent, young and urban. Average transaction prices of new 2020 pickups will undoubtedly top $50,000 for the first time ever. And the hottest sellers are the most expensive trim levels ($70k+), where inventories are the slimmest, or non-existent. And the manufacturers have been struggling all year to meet the demand.