There are some things you can reliably count on, like the sun rising in the morning, the U.S. budget deficit growing, and Ford, Chevy and Ram taking the top three truck sales spots, in that order. And true to form, January 2013 brought no huge surprises. The pecking order further down the list is likewise predictable, with the Sierra, Tacoma, and Tundra in their usual spots.
General Motors is probably counting the days until the new 2014 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon go on sale, as the sales figures for the outgoing model have plummeted to just three-figure levels for both models, rendering them practically irrelevant in the truck sales race. Three stragglers for 2012 that were barely hanging on have now finally flatlined: The Ram (Dodge) Dakota, U.S.-spec Ford Ranger, and the Frontier rebadge Suzuki Equator.
1. Ford F-Series - 46,841, Up 21.7 Percent
The F-Series comfortably retains its usual spot on the list, with a more than 10,000 unit margin over the Silverado. But Ford isn't letting its success make it complacent. Just a month after the official reveal of the 2014 GM full-size models, Ford showed the Atlas concept at the Detroit show, what many believe to be a thinly disguised 2015 F-150. Decades ago, Ford's slogan was "The Best Never Rest." Seems that's still the case.
2. Chevrolet Silverado - 35,445, Up 32 Percent
The Silverado had a strong January performance, up 32 percent over 2012. But GM, despite trying to avoid incentive spending, is stepping up cash on the hood to move excess inventories of trucks. Now that many potential buyers are aware of the all-new model on the horizon, the remaining 2013 half-ton models will likely be sold on the basis of "getting a deal."
3. Ram 1500/2500/3500 - 20,474, Up 14 Percent
The Ram pickup line enjoyed a meteoric rise for most of 2012, bolstered by an effective ad campaign, and a major refresh on the 2013 1500 models. Its gains for January 2013 are a little more muted, up a respectable, but not earth-shattering 14 percent. But there's no question Ram has gone from an also-ran truck brand to a solid, focused competitor in the thick of the segment.
4. GMC Sierra - 12,846, Up 35 Percent
The Sierra showed a strong year-over-year gain for January, but like its corporate cousin Silverado, many sales were likely driven by incentives and special offers. GMC promised more model differentiation on the 2014 trucks, but from what we've seen, the new Sierra and Silverado are about as relatively different as their predecessors were. But considering each brand has a loyal customer base, it's unlikely to matter.
5. Toyota Tacoma - 11,662, Up 30.6 Percent
As usual, the Tacoma maintained its perch on top of the midsize class. Getting a mild refresh for 2012, as well as a few new trim levels, the Texas-built Tacoma continues to sell on its solid, no-nonsense reputation. GM has a huge amount of ground to make up in the midsize segment, but when the new Colorado and Canyon finally arrive, there could be an upset in the midsize pecking order, but probably not for first place.
6. Toyota Tundra - 7004, Up 27.1 Percent
The Tundra has never been able to overturn the Detroit Three full-size truck hegemony, but handily outsells its closest import-brand rival, the Nissan Titan, and for January, did so by more than a five-to-one margin. The Tundra is another model to watch, with the 2014 model to be revealed at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show later this week. Although unlikely to unseat the Silverado or even Ram, the arrival of the new model could narrow the sales gap considerably.
7. Nissan Frontier - 2624, Down 30.6 Percent
One of our staff favorites in the midsize market for its trusty, straightforward personality, sales of the Nissan Frontier took a tumble in January, down 30.6 percent over last year. Now going on seven years since its last redesign, the Frontier is coming due for another clean-sheet redesign. There is some talk of the Nissan Navara, the Frontier's overseas sibling, getting a full redesign in 2014, but we'll have to wait to see if the new Frontier arrives concurrently, or a year later.
8. Nissan Titan - 1394, Up 6.7 Percent
The Titan is approaching a decade without any major changes, and no matter which way you spin it, the truck is showing its age. We've heard plenty of rumors about the next Titan, ranging from diesel and V-6 engine options, multiple cab/bed configurations, and big increases in capability and economy. The Titan needs all of the above, as its annual sales are about what F-Series sales are in a good week.
9. Chevrolet Colorado - 822, Down 71.4 Percent
The Colorado dips below four figures for January, a precipitous drop of 71.4 percent from a year ago, and an indication the midsize market is none too forgiving of the Colorado's dated styling and equipment. The Colorado and Canyon have the distinction of being the only midsizers with an optional V-8 engine, but the market has given the option a collective shrug, and it's nearly guaranteed the next-generation models will not offer a V-8 option.
10. GMC Canyon - 302, Down 71.5 Percent
Even combining sales of the Colorado and Canyon for January couldn't add up to the paltry total for the aging Nissan Titan, let alone the Frontier, which outsold the Colorado and Canyon combined by more than a two-to-one margin. The Tacoma out-sold the pair by a nearly 10-to-one margin, highlighting the steep road ahead for the next-generation models.