ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A surge in oil and natural-gas exploration is providing a welcome spark for pickup sales across the country.
“Every time we add a number of wells, we add a lease operator – and that requires a truck,” said Pat Gibson, vice president of Traverse City, Mich.-based West Bay Exploration, which has 12 to 14 people operating about 80 wells throughout the state.
“As production increases, you’re going to see more” wells and more truck sales, Gibson said. “In places like Ohio and North Dakota and Pennsylvania, that’s significant.”
While there are no New Mexico numbers available, the state has always been ahead of the curve in truck sales, said Charles Henson, president of the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association.
“We are well ahead of this trend,” he said. “It’s what we drive, it’s where we live that puts us ahead every time.”
About 70 percent of vehicle sales in New Mexico are trucks. That segment includes minivans, SUVs and up to half-ton trucks, he said.
“There is a less prominent spike (locally in truck sales) because we are already there because truck sales are already high,” he said. “We are such a truck market.”
Dennis Snyder, president of Rich Ford, said there have been slightly fewer truck sales because of gas prices but trucks still make up 60 percent of sales at the dealership at Lomas and Wyoming NE.
Henson added that trucks offer much better fuel efficiency these days.
Nationally, General Motors’ full-size pickup sales rose 14 percent in March compared with a year earlier as the Chevrolet Silverado posted a 12.1 percent increase and sales of the GMC Sierra jumped 19.2 percent.
Ford F-Series pickup sales rose 13.6 percent for the first quarter to 143,827.
Chrysler’s Ram sales were up 23 percent in March from a year earlier, while Toyota Tundra sales rose 10.3 percent.
The U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said in its March energy outlook that crude-oil production should increase from 5.6 million barrels per day in 2011 to 5.83 million barrels per day in 2012.
The EIA also said natural-gas production reached a new monthly record of 2.577 trillion cubic feet in January, an increase of 11.6 percent from a year earlier and 16 percent above January 2009.
The Detroit Free Press contributed to this story.