2023 Ford Super Duty F-350 Limited
DETROIT – America maintained its love affair with pickup trucks in 2023 — but a top-selling vehicle from Toyota Motor nearly ruined their tailgate party.
Sales of the Toyota RAV4 compact crossover came within 10,000 units of Stellantis‘ Ram pickup truck last year, a near-No. 3 ranking that would have marked the first time since 2014 that a non-pickup claimed one of the top three U.S. sales podium positions.
The RAV4 has rapidly closed the gap: In 2020, the vehicle undersold the Ram truck by more than 133,000 units. Last year, it lagged by just 9,983. Stellantis sold 444,926 Ram pickups last year, a 5% decline from 2022.
“Trucks are always at the top because they’re bought by not only individuals, but also fleet buyers and we saw heavy fleet buying last year,” said Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst at Cox Automotive. “The RAV4 shows that people want affordable, smaller SUVs, and the fact that there’s also a hybrid version of that makes it popular with people.”
At 750,789 units sold, Ford Motor’s F-Series pickups, which include the F-150 and its larger siblings, led the industry for the 42nd consecutive year. They were followed by General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado pickup with sales of 543,780 units.
Rounding out the top five were the RAV4 at 434,943 units sold and the Tesla Model Y at 394,497, according to data and sales estimates from Motor Intelligence. (Tesla does not disclose regional sales by vehicle.) The Model Y moved up one position in the rankings compared with 2022.
The success of the RAV4 is notable. It aligns with Toyota’s growing lead as America’s second bestselling automaker, behind GM but outselling Ford each year since 2020.
Toyota first overtook Ford during the coronavirus pandemic and has continued to increase its sales lead since, outpacing the Detroit automaker by more than 250,000 units in 2023.
The Japanese automaker also notably bested GM to become the country’s top-selling automaker for the first time ever in 2021 amid major production and supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. GM has since reclaimed its crown and outsold Toyota by hundreds of thousands of vehicles in 2022 and 2023.
Ivan Drury, director of insights at Edmunds, said the RAV4 as well as the Honda CR-V, which ranked sixth last year in sales, offer something completely different than American pickups: Small, economical vehicles that fit many American’s lifestyles and budgets amid high interest rates and economic uncertainty.
“It’s all these other problems that we’ve experienced throughout the last year that kind of force people into practical purchases,” he said. “I think these vehicles speak to the most practical purchase you can buy.”
New vehicle sales were stronger and more consistent than expected throughout 2023, notching the industry’s best year of sales since 2019.
Motor Intelligence reports automakers sold 15.6 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2023, a 12.3% increase from 2022. That compares with more than 17 million vehicles sold in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic upending the global auto market.
December sales, which were reported this week, were surprisingly strong, as automakers upped incentive spending to move products.
Auto sales to end the year increased 13% compared with December 2022, more than double some analyst forecasts.
Automotive analysts and forecasters expect sales this year to be between roughly 15.6 million and 16.1 million vehicles. GM said Wednesday it expects the industry to hit 16 million units sold in 2024.
Here are the 10 bestselling vehicles in the U.S. by unit sales for 2023, according to Motor Intelligence.
2024 Ford F-150 Raptor
2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2
A RAM vehicle is displayed at the New York Auto Show, April 13, 2022.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
Tesla Model Y
2022 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk PHEV Concept