What is it with America and Pickups?


OP-ED by A. R. Bunch & P. Wimsett

When you talk about the all-American car you might picture the Cadillac, but really it’s the pickup.

pinup-girl-1967007_1920The American romance with a pickup began, no doubt, with our roots in farming. Actually a lot of the world has farms, but in America they’re spread out. The distance between farms and the condition of the roads are a factor when you have a lot of privately owned farms spread about the less populated areas. You need a vehicle that can transport a variety of goods for long distances but can also traverse rural roads. They are the successor to the horse and wagon really.

The original roads in America were long but incredibly muddy and full of potholes, so early features desirable in a truck were 4×4 and V8 power. The 8 valve engine allowed for power, and fast acceleration and it became the most commercially successful engine for decades.

classic-pickup-4215684_1920Could manufacturers have gone to V10? Sure but the added weight didn’t boost the power enough justify the added cost to build. The V12 did become a thing, but usually in sports cars, because the only reason for a vehicle to have 12 valves was for the smoother operation. If you needed more power than a V8 gas engine, then buy a V8 diesel.

As technology improved the power you could get per valve and gas prices climbed, we got the V6 truck and eventually the “four banger,” but that’s a topic for later in the post.

Why are Pickups more Popular than Ever?

Whereas the old pickup trucks which simply about basic transport, the modern type look more to luxury, one example being the GMC Canyon which Caranddriver.com believe the manufacturers have a model which “spruces up the interior and imbues the exterior with some bling.”

Clearly the buyer is not just the rural yokel, anymore.

In 2018, sales of “large pickups rose by 2.1%, according to Carsalesbase.com. A “large pickups” has a carrying capacity of one half-ton or more. The basic size categories of large pickup are half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and one-ton.

Examples of the large pickup include the Chevrolet Silverado and the RAM 1500. The biggest seller remains the Ford F-series.

pickup-2699155_1920A new player in the market is the Nissan Titan. Although launched about fifteen years ago sales have yet to reach the heights of the Chevrolet, much less Ford. It may be that people associate the name Nissan with vans more than pickups. The Titan is not without its good points, apparently, comfortable seats and a new “infotainment unit” as they call the audio/video system.

My sources are confused as to whether the Frontier is a large pickup (Carmax.com) or a small pickup (Forbes.com); let’s call it mid-sized.  The sales seem to be stalling and the automatic transmission of the Frontier and the choice of three different color schemes might not be enough to save it. While it is floundering in the US market, it should be noted that it wasn’t especially targeted to garner US sales.

Nissan may have felt it the psychology of a US truck-buyer was probably not going to buy a non-US truck, no matter how affordable they make it.

Speaking of Mid-sized and Small Pickups

The fact that smaller pickups exist makes it even more confusing as to why Americans are still snapping up large trucks. While the fuel economy of pickups has radically improved there are still more practical options for urban drivers.

Why are so many city dwellers giving themselves heartburn trying to find a parking spot? Why are they making King Cab pickups so a family can use them, when a minivan is a clearly better fit?

pickup-truck-3566293_1920The answer may be that a pickups true competition is the sports car. This is counter intuitive, but a pickup is primarily a second vehicle (that’s brain twister I know). Someone in the nuclear family must drive a primary vehicle, which will either be a family transporter or a small fuel efficient car. That leaves the second person to choose between a small ports car or a truck. As nice as it is to save gas on a sporty little vehicle most people would rather have a nice truck then the third favourite sports car (which is the one they can afford).

Since the truck comes in handy for fetching furniture or moving your home, etc. it becomes the more practical choice.

PS: What about an SUV though? Well, the SUV is really todays version of the 90s minivan, which is in turn the remake of a70’s & 80’s station wagon, which only exists because car-makers shrank the sedan.

LOL, now that we’ve offended just about everyone, let’s end this post. Ya’ll have a good night, ya’hear?

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