The American Pickup Isn’t Going Anywhere
by Patrick Rall
Recently, the collective think tank at The Street proclaimed that the death of the American pickup truck was upon us, using carefully chosen sales figures and quotes to support the idea that trucks are disappearing from the American landscape.
While The Street is yet again illustrating just how far apart Wall Street and Main Street actually are, they may have a point in showing that trucks take up less of the market than they did 15 or 20 years ago. But if you look at the growth of the sport utility vehicle market relative to pickup trucks, you can see how those who don’t really need trucks have gone to the good old station wagon ““ turned ““ SUV. However, those consumers who actually need a truck, including both work-related uses and those who partake in recreational activities which require hauling, towing or treacherous terrain, are hard pressed to find something other than a pickup that will support their needs.
The Street’s main attack on the American pickup truck was the lack of fuel economy efforts and they went so far as to compare the economy numbers from the new trucks from the Big 3 to those of the Toyota Camry ““ pointing out that when using average fuel economy numbers, the same driver making the same trip will use about $30 more per gas a week in driving an F150 instead of a Camry. Needless to say, the Camry gets far better fuel economy than a truck, but in terms of functionality comparisons, the Camry is as useless as it is ugly. While most truck owners don’t tow every day, the convenience of having a pickup is unmistakable and the Camry, or any other passenger sedan, simply won’t get the job done for the majority of American truck buyers. For the person who never, ever hauls or tows anything ““ an economy car might be the better choice, but from the perspective of someone who tows regularly, it is laughable to consider a new vehicle strictly based on fuel economy numbers.
It should also be pointed out that for their comparison; The Street used a fuel economy rating of 14.3 miles per gallon for the trucks compared to the Camry. The current Ford truck lineup is more powerful than ever and thanks to new engine technology, these new engines are also very fuel efficient. To reach as low as the 14.3 gallon numbers that The Street used, they would have to be comparing a truck with 4WD and the new 6.2L engine ““ which offers 12 around town and 16 on the highway. At the same time, the incredibly popular new EcoBoost yields 15-16mpg around town and 21-22 on the open road, depending on the truck’s configuration. The fact that Ford has successfully produced a V6 engine that offers better than 20mpg while also maintaining the ability to do “truck stuff” is proof that the American pickup truck is alive and well.
While those buyers who don’t actually have a use for a truck may have traded their pickups on a smaller, more fuel-friendly vehicle the US will always be packed full of consumers who need trucks. No economy car or compact SUV will be able to provide those abilities ““ keeping truck buyers buying trucks for years to come.
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