Total vehicle sales in America have notched a meager 0.5% gain over 2017. That has caused a lot of automaker investor angst this year, but the upshot is that higher profit margin SUV and truck sales continue to increase, offsetting big declines in sedans. In fact, two-thirds of U.S. auto sales are trucks and SUVs now, and with 2018 now in the books, several trucks were once again the best-selling vehicles out there.

America is synonymous with trucks

The pickup truck garners a mere single-digit percentage of the global auto market share, but most of that is comprised of sales in North America. For example, 1.07 million units of Ford's F-Series were sold in 2017, but 900,000 of those were in the U.S. alone, making it the best-selling vehicle in the states. That top spot will be held by Ford again in 2018, though General Motors' mechanically identical Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra and Fiat Chrysler's Ram pickups have narrowed the gap this year.

Manufacturer and Model

2018 Units Sold

Ford (NYSE:F) F-Series

909,330

General Motors (NYSE:GM) Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra

805,135

Fiat Chrysler (NYSE:FCAU) Ram Pickups

597,368

Toyota (NYSE:TM) Tacoma

245,659

General Motors Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon

168,334

Toyota (NYSE:TM) Tundra

118,258

Nissan (OTC:NSANY) Frontier

79,646

Nissan Titan

50,459

Data source: Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, and Nissan. 

Who will win in 2019?

With trucks holding the three best-selling spots in the states and SUVs and crossovers also gaining in popularity, the U.S. is an important market for automakers. The higher sticker prices for larger vehicles means they also carry higher profit margins. That has set off a race toward new model introductions in the coming years.

A dark blue Ford F-150 pickup truck pulling a fishing boat out of a lake.

Image source: Ford.

Ford will be tough to beat in that race, though. An all-new F-150 will launch in 2019 (as a 2020 model) and will include an optional hybrid electric drivetrain, and there will be a refresh on the Super Duty versions as well. Ford also just recently reintroduced the Ranger mid-size pickup (as a 2019 model), which will compete with GM's Colorado/Canyon pickup. New models and refreshes are a key component in gaining market share, as GM and Ram's all-new lineup have demonstrated. Ram trucks, for example, set new all-time high records this year. Though they still trail Ford, they've narrowed the lead.

Ford and GM are also scaling back production on sedans and betting instead on SUVs, crossovers, and trucks. As for Ford, the company is axing everything but the Mustang and a Focus crossover, and GM just recently announced it is getting rid of a half-dozen sedans across a few of its brands. With America's two biggest truck makers doubling down on the segment in the next couple of years, it looks likely they will continue to dominate America's favorite way to get around.

Check out the latest Ford and GM earnings call transcripts.