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Pickup truck sales pique interest for some in US auto industry

First quarter sales results showed some areas of weakness, but hybrid models and affordability needs revealed some areas of opportunity.

Unsold 2024 Frontier pickup trucks sit outside a Nissan dealership.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Automakers across multiple companies showed mixed results in their first-quarter earnings reports, with GM reporting sales down 1.5% during the first quarter of the year, and Ford signaling its pickup trucks and hybrids helped in a 6.8% jump in U.S. sales for the first quarter. 

Reuters reported that demand for Ford pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers was showing signs of hope. 

But, as has been the case for the U.S. auto industry in recent years, it's a game of moving pieces as innovation tries to meet demand and affordability. 

In March, around 1,400 Ford factory workers in Michigan working on the automaker's electric version of its popular F-150 truck faced moving to new jobs or accepting retirement packages amid what was called weak sales. The truck, which asks a starting price of nearly $50,000, was sitting on dealer lots as concerning inventory reports flowed in. 

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Just a third of about 2,100 workers at three electric-vehicle plants would remain after cuts in jobs by the company, The Associated Press reported. 

Marissa West, GM's senior vice president and president for North America said, "our inventories are in good shape heading into the spring," and said the company is "on plan."

Earnings reports were mixed in terms of the company's sales in the first quarter of 2024, with retail sales growing by 6%, the company said — but, its entire business unit (GM Envolve), which was created to house its fleet services and products, saw sales drop by a significant 23%, GM reported. Nearly all of the company's Cadillac model sales saw decreases, as well as a significant number of it's SUV models. Its trucks in the GMC category saw a 4.8% decrease. 

The CEO for automaker Stellantis expressed concern that China's auto industry would have a negative impact on EV sales. Carlos Tavares called it an "offensive" and told reporters it is "possibly the biggest risk that companies like Tesla and ourselves are facing right now."

The company reported a 13% decrease in profits at the end of 2023 because of strikes in North America, and didn't enter into 2024 on much better footing. 

And high car interest rates amid a fight by the U.S. Federal Reserve to lower inflation also contribute to consumer sales for vehicles. A Bankrate report said that high rates will have an effect on how the auto industry is able to stabilize vehicle prices.

Statista reported that projections predicted that from an international perspective, most revenue for pickup truck sales will be generated in the United States in 2024. And with variations in sales among various truck sizes — including full-size, mid-size and compact trucks — the addition of electric pickup trucks like the F-150 Lightning should cause some major "shakeups" in the sector, as Auto Blog reported

Ford is claiming America's No. 2 spot for electric vehicle brands, with the Ford Transit as America's bestselling van, the company reported.