Image Source: Wikimedia
Despite the growth of electric vehicles around the world, full-sized pickups continue to rise in dominance over the American automotive market. Last year, we saw the combined sale of 2.8 million new full and mid-sized trucks in the U.S., a 4.8% increase year over year. Pickup trucks now account for 16.4% of ALL vehicle sales in the country, a staggering number for the non-truck buying consumer.
For much of the population across the country and world this raises some questions. Why does the US consumer seem to be obsessed with low fuel-efficiency, large and unwieldy vehicles?
There’s a large subset of the truck-buying consumer base that uses them for work and hauling, but that doesn’t account for the significant growth in the sector or what is frankly the majority of truck sales.
To understand this phenomenon, we have to look at what exactly a truck is. Trucks decades ago used to be essentially only for hauling and working, but modern automakers saw an in… and took it. Trucks today are family vehicles, luxury vehicles, and to many, they are in the same class as SUVs.
Most new trucks today can comfortably hold 5 people, only slightly less than SUVs with 3rd-row seats. On the same level, the average fuel economy of new full-sized pickups is a surprising EPA combined 23 MPG, better than larger similarly capable SUVs.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Modern trucks have become competitively capable vehicles compared to other similar classes – but how do people justify the price?
The answer to that, I think, is twofold.
According to Kelly Blue Book, the average sale price of full-sized pickups is nearing 50 thousand dollars with higher-end versions nearing an average of 70 thousand dollars.
This is a lot of money, but when you compare it to the likes of a Chevy Suburban or Tahoe, the cost is essentially the same. Compared to these vehicles, full-sized trucks can carry about the same number of passengers, but trucks can achieve slightly better fuel efficiencies and better hauling capacities. Not to mention the added cargo space from the truck bed.
This leads to the first answer to how people are justifying trucks, they’re not that expensive. Coupling that base price with nearly every automotive manufacturer offering a 0% interest loan on their new truck models to those with good credit along with the booming economy, trucks get even less expensive with these factors.
While many other cities in the world may not be able to accommodate the massive stature of pickups, US infrastructure was built with bloated vehicles in mind, so for many, a big vehicle isn’t any more hassle than a small vehicle.
This brings us to point number two: status. Americans are buying pickups as a status symbol. To many this may seem odd, but owning the latest and greatest pickup makes you the coolest guy or girl in the neighborhood in many areas across the country. It may feel like a hefty price to pay for “status,” but consumers are shelling out the money (or rather, getting a loan for the money).
This idea of trucks as a status symbol is bolstered by the growth of the full-sized pickup luxury market. Ford now sells a luxury F-450 Platinum Super Duty truck that can be optioned up just shy of 100 grand… and it’s selling. The F-series as a whole nearly topped 1 million units sold in 2017. Nearly every automaker is expanding their truck lineups to include luxury models and performance models. Consumers want the biggest baddest truck in the country.
So, US consumers want big pickups because they’re decently practical, relatively affordable in the current climate, and they make them look cool. Short of a turn in the economy, it looks like trucks will continue to rise even further into automotive dominance.