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Car sales set to plummet to 60-year low

Good luck convincing people to avoid SUVs and trucks.


A quick drive around town is all it takes to notice that new SUVs and trucks outnumber new cars in a big way, but you might not realize just how big the trend has become.

Car sales are on pace to hit a 60-year low, Automotive News reports, thanks to the huge growth coming from the light-truck sector, which includes both pickups and SUVs. 5.3 million cars might sound like a lot, but it would actually be the slowest year for car sales since 1958.

AN points out that the split was pretty much 50/50 five years ago, showing just how hard and fast this trend hit the market. But through May in 2018, light trucks outsold cars by more than double. And it's not just long-time buyers holding strong -- AN pointed out Edmunds data that shows only 52 percent of car buyers in 2018 bought another car. Everyone else went to light trucks.

There's not a single reason why this is happening. SUVs and trucks are getting better fuel economy than before, and combined with low gas prices, this could convince some buyers to check out SUVs for the advantages they offer -- namely, a commanding view of the road ahead and more storage space than your average sedan.

Automotive News points out several automakers that have been on both sides of the car-sales fence. Fiat Chrysler stopped production of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart in order to focus on the more popular (and more profitable) SUVs in its lineup. Ford is about to do the same, announcing that it's nixing nearly every car from its US lineup over the next several years.

Not every automaker is ready to throw in the towel, though. Subaru got in early thanks to standouts like the Outback and Forester, but it's riding the fence, still committing to building sedans as long as buyers want them. AN says that only two automakers -- Hyundai-Kia and BMW -- are still pushing more cars than light trucks, yet both are still rolling out new SUVs as fast as the market can accept them.

It's unlikely that a big shift in gas prices will change this trend, either. As more automakers embrace electrification, especially on thirstier models, buyers can still enjoy more space and a bigger physical footprint without having to worry as much about gas prices. Electric SUVs like the Audi E-Tron, Hyundai Kona Electric and Mercedes EQC are getting ready to skip over the gas-price problem entirely.