2023 auto sales in review: Pickups yet again reign supreme


We’d hate to jinx it, but it’s starting to look like the auto industry is returning to a semblance of normalcy after more than three years of supply chain tomfoolery and runaway inflation. Customers lined up in droves to buy cars in 2023, making it the best year for auto sales since 2019. A lot of the usual suspects are exactly where you’d find them, with the F-Series pickups right up top for the 47th year running. Other segments were a bit messier, and the post-Covid hangover has brought some recent hot sellers back down to Earth.

Surprise surprise, trucks remained relatively stratospheric. Big trucks, small trucks — even trucks that don’t do “truck” stuff. You name it, Americans want it. But what exactly are they buying? Here are the numbers — and why they matter. 

Fullsize

The numbers:

  1. Total GM (Silverado + Sierra) – 850,885
  2. Ford F-Series (all) – 750,789
  3. Chevrolet Silverado (all) – 555,148
  4. Ram P/U (all) – 444,926 
  5. GMC Sierra (all) – 295,737
  6. Toyota Tundra – 125,185
  7. Nissan Titan – 19,189

Why they matter:

Honestly, the half-ton pickup segment is pretty darned boring, but we’ll note that we’ve returned to what we’ll call the “traditional” finishing order: GM’s Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra combine for the most total pickups sold on a single platform, while Ford claims the crown for the most sold under a single nameplate. As is also tradition, we’ll leave it to you to sort out who the real winner is. 

Perhaps most significant here is the fact that Chevy has again managed to put some distance between the Silverado and Ram. For a while, Auburn Hills had a tentative hold on the #2 nameplate behind F-Series. No longer. And Toyota has plenty to celebrate here with the Tundra adding 20% to its 2022 total. It may not ever run with the big trucks from Detroit, but there’s no denying that Toyota’s pickups have an audience. 

Also: Aww, Titan. 

Note: F-Series, Ram, Sierra and Silverado are inclusive of standard (F-150, 1500, et al), medium- (Silverado MD) and heavy-duty (F-250, 2500, et al) models. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

Midsize

The numbers:

  1. Toyota Tacoma – 234,768
  2. Chevrolet Colorado – 71,081
  3. Nissan Frontier – 58,135
  4. Jeep Gladiator – 55,188
  5. Honda Ridgeline – 52,001
  6. Ford Ranger – 32,334
  7. GMC Canyon – 22,458

Why they matter:

The midsize segment has been on a wild ride since the pandemic started. Supply-chain challenges notwithstanding, several of these trucks ended up selling in larger than expected numbers during the pandemic simply because they were the only trucks available, with inventory and chip shortages heavily impacting the half-ton segment. The Gladiator did work for Stellantis while Ram pickups were thin on the ground, but the hangover has been rough. Sales of the Jeep pickup dropped nearly 30% in 2023. 

The other obvious outlier on this list is the Ford Ranger. Sixth place is not where we’d expect to find Ford’s midsizer, but clearly, retooling for the redesigned truck took its toll on production output. That may have been exacerbated by the UAW strike, but we’ll note that Chevy had no trouble moving more than twice as many (also brand-new) Colorados in the same time period. Here’s hoping Ford was taking its time in the name of improving quality. 

Compact

The numbers:

  1. Ford Maverick – 94,058
  2. Hyundai Santa Cruz – 36,675

Why they matter:

Remember compact pickups? Ford and Hyundai remembered them well enough to give them another shot. There isn’t much to this segment, but its mere existence is a testament to the popularity of the pickup truck. After all, the Maverick was designed to replace Ford’s compact, economical Focus sedan and hatchback. 2023 was by far the most successful year for Ford’s little hybrid pickup (94,058 represented a nearly 27% production increase from 2022), and Hyundai has nothing to be ashamed of either, with the Santa Cruz coming in almost dead-even with its 2022 sales results. With those numbers, it outsold both the GMC Canyon and the Ford Ranger. Hey, 2023 was a weird year. Win some, lose some. 

Electric

The numbers:

  1. F-150 Lightning – 24,165
  2. Rivian R1T – 12,000**
  3. GMC Hummer EV Pickup – 2,400**
  4. Chevrolet Silverado EV – 461
  5. Tesla Cybertruck – **

Why they matter:

Electric pickups are still outliers — so much so that their manufacturers don’t group them in with their ICE model lines in their sales data. This results in a bit of a hodgepodge of a “segment,” but it exists only for the purposes of this analysis; we aren’t claiming that these trucks all directly compete with each other. 

With that out of the way, check out Rivian. The company doesn’t break its truck/SUV sales down in its published figures, but Rivian delivered almost exactly 50,000 vehicles in 2023. That figure includes the R1T, R1S and the company’s commercial delivery vans, so our estimate here is based on executive comments that suggest the SUV/truck production ratio is something around 70/30 and discounting some units to account for van deliveries. 

We’re not surprised to see Ford in first here, but the Lightning’s total volume is a bit underwhelming. That said, underwhelming might be an understatement when it comes to GM’s Ultium-based trucks, which barely even exist. Nearly 2/3rds of the Hummer EVs and virtually all (443/461) of the Silverado EVs sold in 2023 were delivered in Q4. 

**Unavailable or estimated at time of publication. 

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