The Death of the American Pickup?

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2011-Ram-HD.jpgby Patrick Rall

The geniuses at The Street recently did a piece proclaiming that the death of the American pickup truck was upon us.  They went on to point out that the Big 3 do not sell as many trucks as they once did, and in that regard, they are right. Today’s consumer has more choices if they need a vehicle that can do
“truck stuff”, such as towing, hauling or handling rough roads, and
instead of a pickup, consumers can now look to crossovers, SUVs and even
minivans.  At the same time, the rise in fuel prices have caused people
who don’t actually need trucks to go in other routes.  Those buyers,
referred to by Ford as “image buyers” often bought trucks because they
simply wanted to drive a truck – not because they needed a vehicle to
perform the tasks only a truck can provide – and as gas prices
skyrocketed those fair weather truck drivers went for other vehicles. 
However, even though the image buyers have gone elsewhere, some
consumers have looked to sport utility vehicles for their needs, and the
small truck segment is going the way of the Dodo, it’s still safe to say…the American pickup is far from dead.


If
you look at the sales figures from month to month among the Detroit
automakers, pickup trucks are among their bestselling models.  They
might not be selling at the same rate as they did 20 years ago, but the
success of the Ram Truck brand, the Ford F Series and the Chevrolet/GMC
truck lineup shows that they are far from dead.  Regardless of fuel
prices, there are plenty of tasks that only trucks can do – such as
towing or hauling heavier loads.

The Street
based the bulk of their argument around the fact that the Ram, Ford and
GM truck lineups offer an average of just 14.3 miles per gallon.  This
number is skewed in that it includes even the least efficient, heavy
duty models which are not in the majority, and it doesn’t make any
mention to the fact that the American trucks have made such big
improvements in the fuel economy category. 

For The Street’s
comparison, they used that 14.3 mpg average of American trucks and put
it head to head with a vehicle that makes little sense – the Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry is one of America’s top selling models, but in June
2011, Toyota sold about 500 more Camry’s than Ram did pickups – even
though the Ram offers a significant disadvantage in miles per gallon. 
For what it is worth, the Ford F Series
badly outsold the Camry in June, so while American pickups are
averaging far worse fuel economy than the Camry…they are still not
having a problem outselling the bestselling sedan.

The fact that
American pickups will always sell well is rooted around the idea that
many consumers need a vehicle that can do more than just haul around a
couple people and a trunk full of groceries.  Plenty of Americans need a
vehicle that can haul larger cargo and tow large loads – making the
average family sedan useless…whether it gets great fuel economy or not.

What do you think? Is the Dakota just the first of many doomed pickups? Voice your opinion here!

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