Domestic trucks and Japanese sedans dominate U.S. auto sales list in 2010

Trucks were hot and hybrids not.

Consumers gravitated toward American trucks and Japanese sedans last year, according to a list of the bestselling vehicles from auto information company Hybrid sales fell.

“Large trucks and mid-size sedans are staples of the industry. This is what people like,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst.

While in theory people like the concept of spending less on gas and limiting vehicle emissions, “when you have to put your money down, it becomes a different story,” Caldwell said.


Americans purchased 272,282 hybrid vehicles last year, off 6% from 2009. They bought more than 1.6 million trucks, a 16% increase, according to the data.

The Ford F-150 pickup truck was the bestselling vehicle in America in 2010. Ford sold 391,219 of the trucks, a 38% increase from recession-depressed 2009 and enough to jump the F-150 to the top spot from third place.

Chevrolet’s Silverado 1500 was the second-best-selling truck, trailing the Ford truck by more than 100,000 sales. It ranked third in vehicle sales overall.

The Toyota Camry fell from first place overall in 2009 to second last year but was still the bestselling car. The Camry has held the car sales crown for nine consecutive years.


But the Camry had the distinction of being the only vehicle on the top 10 list to see its sales decline from 2009. Camry sales fell 6% to 313,212 because of Toyota’s recall problems, including a brief suspension of production in February to fix a problem with sticky gas pedals.

Although two trucks were among the top three sellers, basic sedans remain the bread and butter of the industry.

Besides the Camry, Toyota’s Corolla, Honda’s Accord and Civic and Nissan’s Altima made up half the top-10 list. Together, the five Japanese sedans sold more than 1.3 million vehicles, or more than 11% of all U.S. auto sales last year.

It’s not that domestic automakers didn’t have some popular sedans. The Ford Fusion climbed to ninth in 2010, edging No. 10 Chevrolet Malibu by just 38 sales.


Whether the Japanese sedans will be as dominant this year is a question, Caldwell said.

Both the Camry and the Accord are aging and are facing increasing competition from the Fusion, which is seeing steady sales growth, and upstarts such as the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

The compact Corolla may be even more vulnerable. Rival automakers have a slew of new offerings in the compact car segment, in which the Corolla has long been a dominant player.

“The Corolla is in trouble. Toyota will be fighting a lot of competitive cars without a new vehicle until 2014,” Caldwell said.


Ford is launching its new Focus, which has gained notice for its European feel and styling. Chevrolet has its new Cruze, which reviewers have said is a major upgrade from the Cobalt it replaced. And Hyundai’s new-generation Elantra is among the least expensive, most fuel-efficient cars in the segment and also has nice styling, Caldwell said.

Later this year, Honda will be replacing its aging Civic with a new version. The Civic was the top-selling compact car in 2010.

Caldwell said several models introduced last year are selling quite well and could crack the top 10 list this year, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Sonata and possibly the Cruze.

There also were some big sales duds in 2010, including the tiny Smart fortwo with sales falling 59% to fewer than 6,000. The Toyota Matrix also took a big hit with a 57% sales decline to barely 19,000, and the Kia Sportage SUV saw sales plunge 44% to fewer than 24,000.