Over the past few months, the pick-up truck market segment has seen steady growth with one of the biggest benefactors of this increase being Ford Motor Company. The vehicles that make up this segment have typically been looked upon as being the most inefficient models, so with a struggling economy and constantly growing concern over fossil fuel futures, what has caused this truck market growth?
First, the perceived growth in truck sales over the last 6 months is due to the state of the industry at this time a year ago. Keep in mind that vehicle sales are compared by a variety of methods and right now the most popular is to compare monthly sales to the same month last year. 2009 was an abysmal year for the Big 3, so as the industry continues to climb out of the hole, we are seeing major improvements in sales figures over last year.
Second, the long-time notion that pick-up trucks are brutal gas-guzzlers has forced automakers to put intense research and development into making their vehicles more fuel efficient. Ford has added trimlines like the SFE package that yields improved fuel mileage and in the coming months the F150 will be available with the popular EcoBoost technology ““ offering the power of a V8 with the fuel economy of a V6. General Motors and Chrysler have gone their own direction with their trucks offering multiple displacement systems that effectively shut down half of the engine when cruising on the highway, allowing for vastly improved mileage. Also, all three of the American companies have made a shift towards E85 compatibility, with GM claiming that all of their vehicles will run on the alcohol hybrid fuel within the next few years. These efforts have essentially killed the idea that if you drive a pick-up, you have to suffer at the gas pump.
Next, we have to consider fuel prices. Two years ago, prices were climbing up and above the $5.00 mark around the country and a great many people were fleeing their trucks that get 15mpg. As the economy took a dive, gas prices went with it and as the economy has improved over the last 18 months, fuel prices have remained relatively stable. Figure that in June of 2008, gas prices were in the $4.10-$4.50 range around the country but in June of 2009, they were around $2.30-$2.60 and a year later the prices still stay in the mid to high $2 range. Stability in gas prices has caused many people to become more comfortable buying a vehicle that is harder on fuel and when you consider how much more fuel efficient the new pick-up trucks are, the upsides of the truck far outweigh the concerns over fuel economy.
We do not know from one day to the next how fuel prices will change but we do know that today’s pick-up trucks are the most fuel efficient ever and the companies are always working to get even more power out of the trucks without compromising efficiency. Technology like Ford’s EcoBoost, General Motors Direct Injection setup and Chrysler’s Multiple Displacement System in their Hemi V8 will continue to make pick-ups more popular to the American buyer.