It's no secret that 2020 was an unconventional year for auto sales. Extenuating circumstances or not, it was a year of upheaval even for ever-resilient (and ever-profitable) pickups, with General Motors taking the crown from Ford in the full-size segment.
The Ford F-Series still outsold every other full-size pickup nameplate in the country by a significant margin. It's only when you combine GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra variants that you get a number that exceeds Ford's. This isn't really a new phenomenon, either. In fact, it was only somewhat recently that Ford took the overall full-size crown away from GM, and not only did Ford widen the gap in recent years, but Ram has once again become a legitimate challenger, even managing to outsell the Silverado by a healthy margin in 2019, but never coming close to the F-Series in terms of total volume.
But, 2020 being 2020, things got weird yet again. Ram remains relevant, of course, but Ford got caught with its pants down thanks to the one-two punch of COVID and the generational changeover of the core F-150 model, which resulted in a production interruption as the company's assembly facilities transitioned from building the old 2020 model to the new-for-2021. This perfect storm, as it turns out, was sufficient for GM to walk away with the full-size crown. See for yourself:
Full-size 2020 pickup sales:
GM total: 847,110
As you can see, Ram slipped back behind Silverado, slotting comfortably into third place. The Silverado 1500 had a flat year, but the heavy- and medium-duty variants bucked the trend and contributed to a slight uptick in sales for the nameplate, while F-Series tumbled more than 12% (nearly 110,000 units), opening the door for GM to steam ahead.
There were similarly significant shakeups in the midsize truck segment. First, 2020 was the first full year of retail sales for the Gladiator pickup, which surged to fourth place behind the stalwart Tacoma, Ranger and Colorado. GM's combined sales of the Colorado and Canyon are good enough for second place by manufacturer, but nowhere close to what it would take to dethrone Toyota. Jeep's immediate impact on this segment is clear, and even if its volumes don't end up matching those of the Colorado or Ranger, it's obviously going to be a relevant player going forward.
GM total: 121,248
With production of the 2021 F-150 in full swing, we expect Ford to make a play for the No. 1 spot again this year, and the Blue Oval has more tricks up its sleeve for its bread-and-butter half-ton, with a new Tremor model arriving and the Raptor on the horizon.