The Truth About Cars » Trucks The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:57:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Trucks Marchionne: No Money In Small Diesel Cars Tue, 08 Apr 2014 12:15:51 +0000 sergio-marchionne

Bucking a trend that has been gathering steam beyond its traditional European stronghold, FCA head Sergio Marchionne said that FCA’s upcoming product plan, due to be revealed in May, would be light on diesel engines for B and C-segment cars.

Automotive News reports that Marchionne sees no money in placing a clean diesel powertrain into a compact car if it would prevent the compact offering from being “economically viable”:

You can do this on a larger vehicle because of the costs associated with those vehicles. It’s much more difficult to join with a car like [the Chrysler 200 sedan] and keep the margins above normal. Other manufacturers are making the cars. The question of whether they’re making money is a question you should ask them specifically.

FCA has V8 diesels under the hoods of Ram’s heavy-duty pickups, and V6 oil-burners in the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. But in Europe, diesels are prominent in Fiat and Alfa Romeo vehicles, particularly in countries where the fuel is subsidized (and gasoline prices are rather high). It would be difficult to imagine these smaller diesels going away entirely, but the oil-burning powertrains will certainly not make it to North America.

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Chevrolet Offers Incentives, Extends Truck Month To Take Back Sales Crown Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:02:44 +0000 2014-Chevy-Silverado _12_

Though Ram knocked Chevrolet off the monthly sales throne for the first time since August 1999, the brand is ready to reclaim their part of Truck Mountain by offering incentives and extending their annual Truck Month into April.

Automotive News reports brand vice president Brian Sweeney threw down an additional $1,000 on the hoods of 2014 Silverado double-cabs in pursuit of “the heart of the pickup market.” Furthermore, Chevy’s second Truck Month boosts incentives offered last month, dropping a maximum discount of $8,974 into the bed of the Silverado 2500 HD crew cab or $8,162 for the light-duty double cab V8 model.

Lease offerings were also boosted for the reclamation battle, as one email from a Northeastern United States gave details for a regional lease agreement of $269 per month with $1,900 due upon signature; the Ram’s terms were $259 per month, but with a higher down payment of $2,999 upon signature.

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Barra, Friedman Testify Before US House Committee Wed, 02 Apr 2014 14:00:59 +0000 Mary Barra

General Motors CEO Mary Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acting administrator David Friedman both testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee in the first of two congressional hearings focused on GM’s 2014 recall of an ignition switch whose issues the automaker nor the agency chose to act upon in a swift manner in the decade leading up to the recall.

The Detroit News reports the hearing between the committee and Barra lasted two and a half hours, and while the atmosphere was calm for the most part, the elusive answers Barra gave to some questions proved frustrating to the bipartisan committee. A possible reason for the vague responses provided by Barra: Any incorrect answers could come back to haunt the company via a charge of misleading Congress by the Justice Department, who is already conducting an investigation into GM’s handling of the recall.

She also pleaded her case for patience from the federal government while the internal investigation into the recall continues, and repeatedly stood by her talking points throughout the questioning. However, when the committee asked if GM would commit to delivering the final report from the internal investigation to Congress, Barra said her company would turn over “what’s appropriate.”

Meanwhile, she revealed GM had hired attorney Kenneth Feinberg to guide the company’s executives for the next 30 to 60 days into deciding how the automaker will proceed to do “the right thing” by their customer base. Feinberg, who helped establish compensation funds for those affected by 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing and the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill, may direct GM to create such a fund for affected owners whose vehicles were involved in crashes prior to the company’s bankruptcy filing in 2009, though Barra said she couldn’t commit to such a fund under questioning, opting to let Feinberg find “the best way forward.”

Following Barra’s testimony, Friedman took his turn before the House committee, defending his agency’s decision not to move forward with a formal investigation into the ignition switch issue, citing lack of data from General Motors in 2007.

He also explained that the NHTSA had voiced concerns about a number of problems GM hadn’t disclosed, such as the silent part-swap in April 2006 or the automaker’s talks with Delphi over air bags. In turn, the committee asked Friedman why his agency missed a number of red flags and failed to connect the dots in what the agency did learn from their dealings with GM. He said his agency followed proper protocol in its final decision in that there was insufficient information to press forward with a formal investigation. Friedman added that the NHTSA aims to improve this process, as well as increasing penalties for actions such as those demonstrated by GM.

The families affected by the recall witnessed the proceedings from the back of the hearing room, hoping to receive satisfactory answers from Barra as reminders of what the automaker’s poor choices had cost them hung above their heads. One of the affected, Mary Ruddy of Scranton, Penn., put it thusly:

I did not care for the answers from Ms. Barra. I thought she was very evasive, and if she’’s that evasive with the United States government… then how can we expect them to be honest with the general public.

Ruddy’s husband, Leo, also bemoaned Barra’s tactics before the committee, summing up the experience as if “it was like talking to Sgt. Schultz ["Hogan's Heroes"] — ‘I know nothing.’”

The Ruddys were among the families who met with members of Congress before a press conference calling for the establishment of a victims’ compensation fund, pulling affected vehicles off the road, strengthen current auto safety legislation, and a criminal investigation of GM by the Justice Department.

Finally, though the Chevrolet Silverado was knocked off of its pedestal by Ram’s offerings since 1999, Automotive News reports the fullsize pickup and its GMC Sierra twin helped boost GM’s overall U.S. light-duty vehicle sales in March by 4 percent to 256,047 vehicles. Overall retail sales also gained in March, rising 7 percent compared to the previous year.

As for the twins, Chevrolet’s sales rose 7 percent in March while GMC experienced a 21 percent growth, all of which is setting the place for upcoming product launches later this year, according to GM U.S. vice president of sales operations Kurt McNeil:

GM’s retail sales, like the weather and the economy as a whole, have been on an improving trend since early February. We expect to see solid economic growth in the months ahead, with the job market, household income and consumer spending all showing positive signs.

It is a strong backdrop for the launch of our all-new heavy-duty pickups, large SUVs and other new products, like the Cadillac ATS coupe coming this summer.

Transaction prices also went up in March, coming out on a record average of $34,000, as well as a 5 percent increase in commercial fleet sales; fleet sales fell by 5 percent in a planned reduction by the automaker.

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GM Adds 824k Vehicles To Recall Mon, 31 Mar 2014 13:00:22 +0000 2009_Saturn_Sky_Redline_Ruby_Red_Limited_Edition

Over the weekend, General Motors called back an additional 824,000 vehicles whose ignition switches could slip out of the “on” position, cutting power to the engine, brakes and air bags. According to Automotive News, the recall now affects Chevrolet Cobalts and HHRs, Pontiac G5s, and Saturn Ions and Skys made between 2008 and 2011. The reasoning is that while those vehicles were made after the switch was improved in April 2006, some 90,000 vehicles may have received the faulty switch during repairs.

In addition, Detroit Free Press reports GM issued a stop sale order and recall of 190,000 2013 – 2014 Chevrolet Cruzes in the United States and Canada fitted with the gasoline-powered 1.4-liter Ecotec turbo-four. The right front axle half shaft could “fracture and separate without warning” under normal driving conditions, according to the automaker.

Meanwhile, 490,200 2014 Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras, as well as 2015 Chevrolet Tahoes and Suburbans and GMC Yukon XLs and Yukons, are being recalled in order to fix a transmission oil cooler line that, if not “securely seated and transmission oil leaks from the fitting,” may cause oil to spill onto hot surfaces, resulting in a fire such as the one experienced earlier this month during a test drive in California earlier this month.

The few who purchased or leased a 2014 Cadillac ELR may also need to bring their vehicles in for service. Detroit Free Press says ELRs made between Sept. 26, 2013 and Valentine’s Day 2014 without adaptive cruise control may suffer from an electronic stability system unable to perform certain diagnostics that would alert the driver if the system was either partially or fully disabled, which then could lead to a crash. GM will recalibrate the electronic brake control module for free in their recall notice, set to be issued April 17.

Speaking of Cadillac, Automotive News reports brand chief and former head lobbyist Bob Ferguson has been sent to Washington, D.C. ahead of two separate congressional hearings over the 2014 ignition recall crisis, helping the automaker to prepare. Though insiders have speculated Ferguson could once again return to D.C. permanently as GM’s vice president of of global public policy, the automaker offered nothing more than what Ferguson was doing for them currently.

Bloomberg, Automotive News and Detroit Free Press report GM has had a difficult time with the ignition switch used in their small cars. The switch had been altered three times in five years, beginning with the inability to start 2003 – 2006 Saturn Ions thanks to a defect related to the car’s Passlock theft-deterrent system. The fix, which included a new part number, led to the headache currently being experienced by the automaker.

However, the fix that would have cured the new switch’s ability to accidentally shut vehicles down — such as the Chevrolet Cobalt — was cancelled in 2005 by GM on the words of a project engineering manager who cited costly tooling and piece prices as reasons not to press forward. The part was approved by GM in 2002, despite Delphi — who made the part for GM — noting the switch did not meet specification, nor did the 2006 ignition that, while preventing the slip issue linked to 31 crashes and 13 deaths, was still below what General Motors had requested.

As for the agency responsible for pushing this issue into the spotlight much sooner than 2014, Detroit Free Press says a review by the Associated Press of complaints made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration between 2005 and 2014 found 164 drivers of 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts experienced their vehicle shutting down with no warning; only the Toyota Corolla of the same vintage — recalled during the government’s investigation into Toyota in 2010 — saw more complaints.

In addition, an unnamed official who headed the NHTSA’s Defects Assessment Division recommended in 2007 an investigation as to why air bags in 2003 – 2006 Cobalts and Ions didn’t deploy, stating complaints made to the agency in 2005, along with early warning data gathered from related repairs and injuries, justified such action.

Bloomberg adds the cars linked to the faulty switch were marketed to first-time drivers, whose inexperience behind the wheel may have added to the chain of events leading to the number of crashes and fatalities documented thus far. Though GM stated in 2005 the driver could regain control by shifting to neutral and restarting, auto-safety experts and driving instructors, such as American Drivers Traffic Safety Education Association CEO Allen Robinson, said the scenario presented by the ignition failure would be hard to manage by most drivers:

It’s going to be a real problem and most people are not going to know how to deal with it.These sorts of mechanical failures are so infrequent that you can’t really prepare people for them.

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Diesels, Refinement Key To Kiefer’s Vision Of Future GM Engine Development Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:30:54 +0000 Steve Kiefer

General Motors head of global powertrain and former Delphi senior vice president of powertrain systems Steve Kiefer aims to steer engine development toward a brighter future, one influenced by his love for diesels, quietness and refinement.

Automotive News reports Kiefer’s vision may have begun to come to fruition this week with the debut of the new Ecotec family of engines slated to power 25 percent of GM’s global lineup by 2017. The eleven engines are based on older-though-proven technology found in the cam chains, blocks and other components, resulting in a family with lower NVH than previous engines. The new Ecotec family is a reflection of Kiefer’s method of improving existing technology to accomplish what competing engines already do — such as Ford’s EcoBoost — for little cost in development and assembly.

Speaking of Ford, both the Blue Oval and the General are collaborating on a new generation of nine- and 10-speed transmissions for their respective pickups, with the latter expected to arrive in two years. Though no word has been said on whether GM will either use diesel power or smaller gasoline engines in their fullsize trucks, Kiefer’s experience on the supply side of the industry — especially in regards to knowing what the competition is doing to be green and efficient — could prove valuable in the long run.

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Ford Medium-Duty Truck Production Moving To Ohio In 2015 Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:30:23 +0000 2015 Ford F-650

With the Econoline passing the torch to the Transit Connect at the end of this year, Ford is in the process of moving production of the F-650 and F-750 from Mexico to Ohio in time for the medium-duty trucks’ redesign for 2015.

Bloomberg reports the automaker is cutting ties with Navistar International in a joint venture based in Escobedo, Mexico to take full control of the two medium-duty trucks in their transfer to Avon Lake, Ohio, bringing the entire F-Series line — and the profits made up and down the chain — in-house as Ford’s president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs explains:

We’re doing this to bring the 650-750 production in-house so that we have complete design, manufacturing and engineering control over our F-series lineup. It’s so critical to be able to offer our commercial customers everything from an F-150 all the way to an F-750 and to know it’s built by Ford.

The relocation will preserve 1,600 jobs while honoring an agreement made between Ford and the United Auto Workers in 2011, with no added jobs or change in labor costs resulting from the move.

Hinrichs expects it will take less than the 13 weeks needed to transition the two F-150 plants from steel to aluminium-body production, with tooling from the Mexico plant already being put into place:

A lot of equipment has been going in on the fly. It’s not what we would classify as a new body shop, but the investment that’s being made largely is for equipment in the body shop and for tooling associated with building the 650 and 750.

The transition will occur in time for the F-650′s and F-750′s 2015 redesign, though the medium-duty trucks will remain steel-bodied.

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2015 Ford Super Duty Best In Class In Torque, Towing Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:10:31 +0000 2015-Ford-F-450-Super-Duty-front-three-quarters

Answering the challenge made by the Ram 3500 in torque and towing capacity, Ford revealed the news that the 2015 F Series Super Duty lineup will include a more powerful diesel engine with enough boulder-tossing torque and space shuttle-towing capacity to maintain dominance over Truck Mountain.

AutoGuide reports the lineup’s new source of power comes from a 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbodiesel pumping out a best-in-class rating of 440 horses and 860 lb-ft of torque through the rear or all four wheels. The compacted graphite iron engine, complete with larger turbo and new injectors maximized for improved response, allows the F-350 to tow up to 26,500 lbs with a gross combined weight of 35,000 lbs, while the F-450 smashes the towing scale thrown down by the Ram with a capacity of 31,200 lbs via gooseneck, 26,500 lbs via fifth wheel; gross combined weight comes to 40,000 lbs.

Under the body, the Super Duty line also received extensive upgrades to the chassis, brakes, suspension, and for the F-450, commercial-grade 19.5-inch wheels and tires.

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VW Considering Larger Pickup For U.S. Market Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:14:02 +0000 2013-Volkswagen-Amarok-Canyon-07

The Amarok may not be coming to the United States, but depending on the success of the General Motors’ twin midsize pickups, Volkswagen may re-enter the light-duty truck market with a product more suited to a U.S. audience.

Autoblog reports VW is mulling over the idea of bringing a truck to the U.S. market, though it may not be the Amarok popular around the world, according to VW Group head of powertrain development Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer:

We are just reworking our truck strategy, and this is part of thinking about it. But the Amarok fits not very well to the efforts of the market.

Speculation around the VW U.S. pickup include a revised Amarok or a separate U.S.-only model.

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Barclays: GM Suffering From Worst Large Pickup Launch In 15 Years Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:29:25 +0000 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior

Though the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado took home North American Truck/Utility of the Year at last month’s Detroit Auto Show, the large pickup and its brother, the GMC Sierra, have suffered from “the least successful large pickup launch over the last 15 years” according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson.

Automotive News reports the truck twins “faced a full-court press” from the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500, though winter weather also played a role in lower sales across the board. General Motors executives have come to the defense of their products, proclaiming average transaction prices of $4,000 to $5,000 more than the previous generation pickups and a combined market share hovering around 33 percent over the past few months, though the latter point held between 35 and 40 percent of the market in years past.

With dealers begging for stronger promotion and better incentives for the pickups, Chevrolet will host its Chevy Truck Month promotion. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing (dealer invoice plus destination charges and a $150 fee) on light- and heavy-duty Silverados, and will be heavily pushed during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with television advertising beginning March 18.

In addition, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC will all hold Open House events throughout the month of March. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing on nearly every 2014 vehicle sold under each brand, with the exception of the SS and Corvette Stingray for Chevrolet.

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Diaz Promises Profitable Share Gains, More Competitive Titan For Nissan Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:20:54 +0000 Fred Diaz with Cummins Diesel For Nissan Titan

Nissan North America sales boss Fred Diaz expects his employer will gain more mind and market share in 2014 in the run-up to the 2016 Titan’s debut in showrooms, a truck promised to be more competitive than the current model.

Automotive News and WardsAuto report Nissan’s market share in 2013 nudged upward to 8 percent from 2012′s 7.9 percent share. Meanwhile, January 2014 sales rose 12 percent while overall industry sales fell 3 percent, and slashed sticker prices on a number of Nissan’s most popular models helped to to lower incentives by $375 while raising average transaction prices to $95 per unit sold.

Finally, Diaz himself met with the dealer advisory board monthly, as well as held discussions with all 1,167 dealerships in the United States, to learn about and adopt necessary product changes needed to bring more profits back to his employer.

One of the products in question is the 2016 Titan, where Diaz took those suggestions to heart during his visit to Nissan’s design studio in La Jolla, Calif.:

I was pleasantly surprised, but I also saw some things that could be improved significantly. No doubt I hurt some feelings and stepped on a few toes. I was pretty tough with the suggestions I made. We just needed to do a few things with the lines and the front of the vehicle.

The upcoming Titan is expected to match 90 percent of the competition’s various features and configurations in terms of cabs and engines, including a Cummins 5-liter turbodiesel V8. Nissan is also betting on the all-American soul that the newly designed pickup will bring to the table, having been engineered in Farmington Hills, Mich, designed in California, and assembled in Canton, Miss. with the aforementioned Cummins coming down from Columbus, Ind.

Diaz expects his employer will source 85 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. to come from plants in the U.S. and Mexico. Nissan is also in the early stages of revamping its ordering system so dealers can order and receive inventory at a faster clip than current.

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Medium, Heavy Truck Fuel Economy Standards Deadline Set For March 2016 Wed, 19 Feb 2014 11:00:25 +0000 International LoneStar

Before a gathering at a distribution warehouse in Maryland, United States President Barack Obama announced that his administration has set March 2016 as the deadline for the next round of fuel efficiency and emissions standards for medium and heavy trucks to meet compliance.

Bloomberg reports President Obama’s latest initiative — part of his overall strategy regarding energy security and climate change — will bring “thousands of dollars of savings every year” for truck operators while also benefiting the economy via lower costs for consumer goods and new technology development. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the new standards by March 2015.

Industry groups in general were supportive of the announcement, which will also see manufacturers working with the federal government on bringing new trucks up to the new standards, though American Trucking Association president Bill Graves urged the Obama administration to proceed with caution by setting forth a path “that is both based on the best science and research available and economically achievable.”

Moving forward from 2016, the next set of standards to come into force by 2018 and beyond will see the industry aggressively use technology — especially in the use of aerodynamics — to meet the fuel economy standards set at that time,.

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2015 Chevy Silverado HD Goes Green With CNG Fri, 07 Feb 2014 15:03:46 +0000 2015 Silverado 2500HD Bi-Fuel

In the ongoing battle in Green Valley below Truck Mountain, Chevrolet has unleashed a CNG conversion kit for both 2500 and 3500 variants of the 2015 Silverado HD.

The kit allows the Silverado HD to run either compressed natural gas or gasoline at the flick of a switch, with the 6-liter V8 under the bonnet pumping out 301 horsepower and 333 lb-ft torque on CNG, or 360 horses and 380 lb-ft on gasoline. Range is expected to reach 650 miles through the use of both fuels, while towing capacity remains at 13,000 pounds.

For operators of work-duty Silveradoes, the CNG conversion would save $2,000 annually on fuel costs for a truck that does 26,000 miles using CNG 75 percent of the time, due mainly to the lower per gallon cost of CNG over a gallon of gasoline.

The kit — made for use in single-wheel setups only — is available now on 2500HD double cab and crew cab models, while 2500HD single cab and all 3500HD styles will be available in July.

2015 Silverado 2500HD Bi-Fuel 2015 Silverado 2500HD Bi-Fuel ]]> 27
2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Pulls 28 MPG Highway Wed, 05 Feb 2014 16:32:26 +0000 2014 Dodge 1500 EcoDiesel

Truck Mountain may still be held by the soon-to-be-lightened Ford F-150, but the fuel-efficiency battle in the valley below is already underway, thanks to Ram’s 1500 EcoDiesel pulling the highest mile-per-gallon highway rating of any light truck in the United States at 28 mpg.

Through an announcement made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, the 1500 EcoDiesel also nets 20 mpg in the city to create a combined rating of 23 mpg; the four-wheel drive variant offers 27 mpg on the highway, 22 combined.

Fighting alongside its brother, the 1500 HFE’s 3.6-liter V6 gasoline powerplant puts out 25 mpg on the highway, 18 in the city, and a combined rating of 21 mpg.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles began assembly in late January at their Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Detroit, with deliveries expected by dealers — who will be allowed to place their orders February 7 — later this month. Once on the lot, expect to pay $30,465 to start, just $2,850 more than to purchase a 1500 that could answer the question about whether or not it has a Hemi. Trim levels available with the powerplant include Tradesman, SLT (both excluding short-bed/regular cab combos), Outdoorsman, Big Horn, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn.

The light-duty diesel pickup — the first to be offered since General Motors sold such trucks in the mid-1990s — is powered by a 3-liter V6 made by FCA subsidary VM Motori S.p.A. in Italy, and produces 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of stump-pulling torque, which is sent through a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic to the bed and bonnet.

Aside from being fuel efficient, the 1500 EcoDiesel is also green thanks to its ability to use B20 biodiesel, and its urea-enhanced exhaust treatment system. The system, which comes with a particulate filter and selective catalyst reduction as well, reduces smog-producing nitrogen oxide emissions, allowing the truck to be compliant with pollution standards in all 50 states. The urea used to treat the exhaust must be replaced every 10,000 miles.

As far as sales are concerned, FCA has high hopes for demand of the 1500 EcoDiesel. Ram boss Reid Bigland estimates that up to 30 percent of 1500 sales will be diesel-powered.

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Ford Repair Shops to Undergo Mandatory Certification For Aluminium F-150s Tue, 28 Jan 2014 17:15:58 +0000 2015-ford-f-150

Own a Ford dealership with a repair shop? Should your mechanics and body repair crew desire to the ability to repair the new aluminium F-150, then prepare to seek certification with a substantial price tag.

At a National Automobile Dealers Association meeting this weekend, the Blue Oval announced a certification program for Ford dealers with repair shops in order to be able to work on the new F-150s. The program — which includes tooling upgrades alongside training — will range between $30,000 and $50,000, though Ford will pitch in with $10,000 for each dealership’s shop upgrade and certification.

The move goes against an earlier statement made by the automaker, which did not require dealer-owned repair facilities to be certified to work on the aluminum-bodied truck. However, the certification is in line with requirements from German automakers whose lineups include vehicles heavily utilizing the metal.

Dealers who opt for certification claim that by doing so, they would have exclusivity — and more business — around F-150 repairs such as the ones that might be required by the new F-150. Ford also hopes the strategy pays off for their dealer network’s shops, as 80 percent of repair work performed on their offerings are done by independent repair shops.

Ford also outlined its strategy for making the vehicle easier to repair, with the trucks being built in a modular fashion that allows for a cheaper, easier method of replacing damaged components. Aside from ease of repair, Ford also aimed at keeping insurance premiums in line with the current truck, so as not to ward off buyers who feared excessive insurance costs.

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A Texan’s First Truck Mon, 06 Jan 2014 14:00:57 +0000 cst10

I used to daily drive a 1969 Chevrolet CST/10. The 1967 to 1972 Chevrolet and GMC trucks were a big step towards what we see now as a modern pickup. Gone were the divorced hood and fender styling, strong (uni)brow hood line, and lean-forward look of the cab. This bodystyle would later define the bodylines and grille design of the later trucks, especially in the early GMT800 trucks where they share the same hood and style-line down the side.

What arrived was a clean-cut design, with more upright styling, streamlined front and side sheet metal, and modern proportions. The coil spring trailing arm suspension in the rear was a revolution in handing and ride comfort; so much so that NASCAR still uses an identical rear suspension today. The long control arms are resistant to axle hop, and improve the behavior of the rear axle. The front suspension was a short/long-arm design, similar to contemporary GM sedans at the time, though much stronger.

And for HD applications, you could still get a traditional leaf sprung rear end, though on paper the two were rated for the same payload. By far, GM had the best truck chassis at the time compared to Ford and Dodge’s relatively uncivilized pickups. Dodge was still using a dead-beam front axle, and Ford was in full swing with their front swing arms; which after recently driving one makes me appreciate my CST/10′s SLA suspension.

Settling into the 2000′s, these attributes made the truck popular with hotrodders of all types. The custom truck scene clamored to shove airbags into the trailing arm trucks for a cheap and easy bagged suspension. The Pro-Touring scene found that overall suspension package was relatively capable. And the muscle truck guys found comfort in the fact that a fair number of them came with a 396 big block and 4spd, or often a TH400 auto — making these a decent drag truck.

I was in high school when I first started seeing these trucks, but my tastes ran towards the mini-truckin’ scene, and I read Truckin’ mag religiously. Pages and pages of air kits for Hardbodies and S10′s, wheels of every shape and taste and a wealth of custom suspension to gawk at in the various feature trucks. The ’67-’72′s always stood out, since they were just damn good looking no matter what you did, while the platform lent itself to an array of different builds and drivetrains.

My neighbor, also a gear head, had brought home a ’69 CST/10 one day. It took all of five minutes for him to realize it wasn’t going to fit in his garage once he got it here, and offered it to me for $500. It was a rolling shell, no motor or transmission. I scrounged up cash from my parents, and in January of ’07, it was mine.

Most of the big money parts came from my family during Christmas and my birthday. New light lenses, door panels, giant 4-core radiator, lights, etc. I dredged through the forums for build ideas. Some of what I took back were upgrading to 73-87 “Heavy Half” 12.5” disc brakes up front, seats out of a modern ’08 Silverado (GM has used a flat floorpan since forever, seat swaps are easy), shoulder belts out of an 80′s S10 (the cab has threaded anchors for the upper belt), and H4 conversion headlights. In the winter of ’07, I sold my ’90 Pontiac Firebird and used the cash to finish the truck. It eventually gained a new gas tank, 3” lowering springs and shocks, and a few other tricks before hitting the streets.

On my birthday, February of ’09, I took it for its first legal drive. To say that it was the baddest truck at the highschool parking lot was an understatement. My orange, low, loud, black-steelied CST/10 stood out from the cookie-cutter bro trucks, with its retro looks and the distinct rumble from the mild cam in the 350 small-block.

I drove it hard for four years, before driving it from Austin to College Station for a weekend of drinking and partying, and then to Houston to store it. At the time, I was flipping cars to pay for college, and making half-decent cash. But storage was an issue, and I was stuck with 4 cars at once. My dad had a side driveway for a trailer that I could stash the truck in for the time being.

The truck ended up sitting for three years, partly due to unresolved mechanical issues. I would take it out every few months to go around the block and burn off some fuel, and top it off with fresh gas to keep the fuel happy. Unfortunately, during one nostalgic full throttle run, it blew a freeze plug, and began to overheat. While my Dad was confident that I could drive it the last mile home by driving to speed and coasting with the motor off, I was unsuccessful

I managed to push the orange behemoth into a parking lot and started walking home. I was surfing Craigslist for a new small block, or cheap LS 5.3 truck motor. A buddy of mine came over and we rope-towed the truck to my house. Once I got home, I was so frustrated, I didn’t bother to look at it. When my dad came home later, we put a wrench on the crank and found that the motor still spun. Meaning, it wasn’t seized. The level of relief I felt is hard to put into words. Must be the starter, I thought.

After running to 4 different parts stores, trying to remember where I had a lifetime warranty on the damn thing, I installed it only to find no change. Then, it hit me. Battery cables. The steam from the freezeplug had flash-corroded the terminals and killed the connection. Sure enough, a little backwoods trick of soaking the cable-ends in Coke was all it took to get it fired up. Even so, I never really got around to replacing the freezeplug, on account of my studies and other events in my life.



It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got around to replacing it, fixing the motor mounts and all the other fun stuff that needs to be done after a vintage truck has been sitting idle for years.. My goal now was to get it ready to drive back to Austin on the next weekend. After a few hours messing around with the thing, it came time to fill it with coolant and fire it up.

Almost instantly there was a leak from the back of the block.


Both sides of the block.

No, no.

A quick rev of the throttle to knock the carb off high-idle, and then two more freeze plugs blew. Nope. No more of this day. As the steam billowed from the engine bay I took a long look at the truck. Visions of “For Sale” signs danced around in my mind.


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Honda Ridgeline to Receive a Second Coming Wed, 11 Dec 2013 11:45:38 +0000 2014 Honda Ridgeline

Though Honda’s foray into Truck Mountain was met with slow sales, the automaker is standing behind the Ridgeline with plans for a second generation to make its ascent in two years’ time.

The new Ridgeline will be completely redeveloped from the wheels up in the United States, and is set to be assembled in Honda’s Lincoln, Ala. plant where the current generation is, until June 2014, still being screwed together. The automaker has given no word thus far on what all will go into the new truck — including whether or not it will continue to share its underpinnings with the Odyssey minivan — though they do believe that the second generation will fare better bolstered by growth in the small/medium truck sector over the next few years, due mainly to economic growth, lower gas prices, and more disposable income.

As for the outgoing generation, 16,160 units left the lot through November 2013, an increase of 29 percent over last year’s sales. Total sales since the Ridgeline’s debut in 2005 comes to 242,049 to date, with a special edition for the 2014 model year recently making the rounds in many a Honda showroom.

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Editorial: Mid-Size Trucks Don’t Matter Tue, 10 Dec 2013 13:15:50 +0000 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

Among the pet segments that enthusiasts hold dear, none has been on a roll the way the mid-size truck market has been. News of the Chevrolet Colorado’s return, along with diesel and manual transmission options, have been greeted with the sort of fanfare that in the glossy buff book era would have been reserved for the newest European supercar.

But this is the age of the internet, the long tail and niches are able to thrive in cyberspace. Our coverage of the Colorado’s debut garnered hundreds of comments, and Phillip Thomas’ excellent analysis piece was our most popular article for a number of days (on the strength of this piece, Phillip will be back with more truck segment pieces).

While it’s easy for us to get excited about the Colorado, the numbers indicate a different story. The mid-size truck market has been in consistent decline, and the Colorado has an even tougher job than it did last time around if it wants to kickstart the segment all over again.

A just over a decade ago, the Ford Ranger accounted for 226,000 units alone. Today, the entire mid-size truck market is worth 225,000 units, in a truck market worth about 1.6 million units, and an overall SAAR expected to hit around 16 million units. with the Toyota Tacoma accounting for 62 percent of the market. The second place Nissan Frontier pales in comparison, moving about 55,000 units.

In 2002,  its best year, the Colorado cracked 150,000 units, declining steadily until its demise a decade later, when it sold just 36,000 units. By contrast, sales of the Tacoma have been stable, and consistently stayed above 100,000 units, peaking at 178,000 in 2006, outselling the Colorado that year by a nearly 2:1 margin.

It would be foolish to assume that the market has stayed stagnant since those years, but in many ways, it’s quite a bit tougher. Having rebounded from the shocks of 2009, the latest crop of trucks is the best yet, and many of the key features touted by the latest full-sizers further diminishes the raison d’etre of the mid-size truck.

The two key selling points for mid-sizers has always been fuel economy and the fact that not everyone wants a full-size pickup. But the newest half-tons from Ram, General Motors and Ford offer 6-cylinder powertrains that meet or exceed that of a Tacoma V6 while offering superior performance. Even the latest crop of V8s, as thristy as they are, have set new standards for fuel efficiency in the segment – and the bar will be raised even further with the introduction of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, which gets fuel economy figures more inline with a mid-size V6 sedan.

Of course, there are those who claim that they don’t want a big truck, and that a mid-size makes sense and is all the truck that they (and sometimes, others) really need. But then again, there are people who claim that crossovers are wasteful and inefficient and that station wagons would meet their needs (and in a spectacular feat of paternalistic solipsism, claim that consumers are too dumb to realize this). In both cases, the numbers come down heavily against them, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to change any time soon. People want pickup trucks for towing, payload capacity, versatility, status displays and even as a replacement for a full-size family sedan or wagon.

Even if the Colorado does take off and ends up reviving the compact truck segment, the regulatory and commercial deck is already stacked against it.  The newest CAFE requirements brought into place by the Obama administration place an onerous fuel efficiency burden on small and mid-size trucks, while cutting full-size trucks way too much slack. By 2017, a small truck the size of the outgoing Chevrolet S-10 will have to hit 27 mpg (real MPG, not the confusing CAFE number) combined, rising to 37 mpg in 2025. On the other hand, a full-size truck need only hit 19 mpg by 2017 and 23 mpg by 2025. Add to that the simple fact that full-size trucks are far and away the most profitable vehicles on the planet for any automaker, and the mid-size market’s future prospects appear to be out of step with the amount of fanfare being heaped upon it.

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Kelley Blue Book: Ford F-Series Dominates America In State By State Breakdown Mon, 02 Dec 2013 13:19:17 +0000 2014 Ford Super Duty

Business Insider wanted to know the buying habits of Americans when it comes to cars. Thus, they asked Kelley Blue Book to present their findings from data gathered between January and August 2013, as well as the lowest price for each top model sold in New York City in November of this year.

The result? Thirty-five states, from the Bakken in North Dakota to the super patriots of New Hampshire, love the Ford F-Series. Perhaps Ford’s truck division strategy is truly paying off after all?

As for the other 15 states and our nation’s capital, California opts for the Honda Civic, Michigan adores the Ford Fusion, and DC’s Beltway is adorned in Toyota Corollas. The rest of the story is in the map below.

Top Selling Cars in 2013 Map

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The Legend of Ford’s Truck Czar’s Rule Over Truck Mountain Tue, 12 Nov 2013 07:59:30 +0000 Doug Scott

Once upon a time, one man rose from the realm of sales to helm Ford’s truck division. With his iron fist, he divided the F-150 range into several specialized units, reaping the rewards as his dominion over the light truck market expanded.

That man is Doug Scott, and this is the tale of how he came to be the Sovereign of Truck Mountain.

Though his title is humble, Ford’s Truck Group marketing manager has brought in $22 billion in revenue over the years, bettering his competitors through offering an F-150 for everyone. For example, contractors and landscapers just starting out could have the STX for just over $26,000, while businessmen making the big bucks off the Bakken could opt for the top-of-the-line Limited for around $54,000, and hardcore off-road prerunners can feel like a reptile in their Raptor beginning at $45,000.

This strategy has not only paid off for Ford, but has inspired General Motors and Chrysler to play follow the leader, with the Italo-American alliance spinning off the Ram brand from Dodge for greater focus while GM’s bowtie has unveiled their own luxury pickup to go up against the F-150 Platinum Edition. Meanwhile, the F-150 has lived at the summit of Truck Mountain since 2010, picking up $4,000 per truck than GM per Kelley Blue Book.

With 2013 sales on track to hit 700,000 units, and recording the best October since 2004, Scott aims to keep his competitors on their toes. His latest from the F-Series is a sport truck dubbed the Tremor, whose 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 will push the superbeast from zero to 60 in 6.4 seconds, just over one second slower than the V6 version of the Mustang.

The Tremor, like the King Ranch, the Raptor and all of the other F-150s, were born from the collaboration between the marketers and engineers within the truck group, who, in turn, gathered their information on what customers want from the customer relationships built through events and organizations, such as the Professional Bull Riders Association and the Future Farmers of America. The result: a 34.6 percent share of the truck market through September 2013, with the Chevy/GMC tag team a close second at 30.7 percent, and Ram a distant third with just 16.3 percent.

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Ram Reveals Rumble Bee Truck Concept at Woodward Dream Cruse Tue, 20 Aug 2013 01:52:53 +0000 RAM-Rumble-Bee-Concept

At a time when some question the overall value of big auto show media previews, car companies continue to look for new ways to reveal new product and concepts.


The domestic car manufacturers have long had large displays set up near the huge annual Woodward Dream Cruise, held every year in mid-August. At this year’s Dream Cruise, held this past Saturday, for the first time one of them decided to use the event to show off a new concept vehicle the Ram Rumble Bee truck.

Not only is the Rumble Bee the first concept vehicle revealed at the Dream Cruise, it’s also most likely the first concept vehicle to use an insect as interior trim. The knob that selects the 8-speed transmission’s gear has a real bumble bee embedded in amber (Chrysler says it’s a bumble bee, but it looks more like a common honey bee to me).

The Rumble Bee concept hearkens back to two previous high performance vehicles, the original Dodge Super Bee muscle car, circa 1968-71, and the limited edition Ram 1500 Rumble Bee pickup from 2003.

Based on a two-door standard cab Ram 1500 R/T, the Rumble Bee has a custom matte pearl yellow paint job with black stripes and decals. The Ram badges are blacked out. The pickup’s cargo bed is covered with a body color tonneau that incorporate a spoiler at its back edge. The hood has scoops and the front fascia has an integrated splitter.

Inside the truck is black leather and yellow detail stitching. The seat backs are embroidered with Rumble Bee and the seating surfaces are a yellow/black honeycomb fabric. Under the hood is the corporate 5.7-liter, 395-horsepower Hemi V-8 coupled to ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission. The truck sits fairly high on its 24″ wheels, also in black. True to the Rumble Bee’s name, there’s an exhaust bypass that can be activated by a button on the dashboard.

RAM-Rumble-Bee-Concept RAM-Rumble-Bee-Concept_7 RAM-Rumble-Bee-Concept-1 RAM-Rumble-Bee-Concept-3 RUMBLE BEE ROTARY SWITCH RAM-Rumble-Bee-Concept-6 RAM-Rumble-Bee-Concept-8 RAM-Rumble-Bee-Concept-9 ]]> 57
Life On Wheels: Mobility SVM Tue, 18 Jun 2013 12:00:39 +0000 Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Here’s a confession. I found this cool thing and I want to tell you all about it because, frankly, it is interesting and if it reaches the right person it might just change someone’s life for the better. My problem is that I don’t know how to begin an article in a way that doesn’t pull on your heartstrings or otherwise involve some bad pun that leaves me looking like a total ass. The subject is sensitive and it needs to be handled delicately, but at the same time I can’t write anything makes me feel like an overly PC tool, either. Since I am trapped, I guess I’ll just say it outright: I found this company that will convert a full size GM pickup for use with a wheelchair in such a way that it preserves the vehicle’s lines and doesn’t tell the entire world that the truck is a handicapped conversion unit. What’s more, this truck can be set up so the wheelchair bound person can be either the passenger or the driver. That’s cool, and whether or not someone in your life is confined to a wheelchair, I think you’ll want to see this too.

According to the Mobility SVM website, the design in question began life as the product of two friends, one a mechanical engineer named Go and the other a quadriplegic named Shichi. The story goes that Shichi was tired of the conversion van that he relied upon for transport and discussed is desire for a pickup truck with his friend Go. Go set to work and eventually came up with a design that would allow his friend to travel by truck. By 2009 their product, then called the GoShichi, was ready and once the design was fully tested and patented, the two set about establishing a company to do the conversion. In 2012 that company was purchased by new owners who have since worked to further improve upon and promote the design and the end result is the product you see upon these pages.

The best thing about Mobility SVM’s product is the fact that it can be mounted on a normal GM truck without extensive modifications to the vehicles roof or floor. Often, conversion vans set up for wheel chair use have lowered floors, that leaves them lacking sufficient ground clearance for rough roads or winter driving conditions. Additionally the long ramps they often employ can be made useless in certain situations where people park too close or in areas with insufficient space to unfold a long ramp. Mobility SVM’s side loading life does away with the hassle of the ramp altogether.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I can’t even begin to imagine the daily challenges of living my life from a wheel chair but one thing I think I would miss would be the ability to blend in with everyone else. The way the Mobility SVM attaches to a truck while leaving its factory lines and ride height unmodified would greatly appeal to me. I might still be in my wheelchair, but out there on the road I would once again be just one of the guys on my way to or from wherever life takes me. I’d like that. If you, or someone important to you is confined to a wheelchair and wants more out of life than a minivan, Mobility SVM may be the right answer.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He writes for any car website that will have him and enjoys public speaking. According to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Big Trucks, Big Profits Mon, 10 Jun 2013 16:54:41 +0000 2013 Ford King Ranch - Pocture courtesy

To hell with saving gas: As TTAC’s sales analyst Tim Cain wrote a week ago, big trucks are back with a vengeance. It’s not just that sales are up by double digits. Transaction prices are up big.

“In many ways, this may be an even better time than before the recession,” writes Automotive News [sub].  “Although volumes remain well below the previous peaks, average transaction prices for full-sized pickups have increased at more than double the average rate for the industry since 2005.”

Pricey pickups

According to Edmunds, average transaction prices for large pickups are close to $40,000, up 29 percent from 2005, when the average big pickup left the dealership for $31,000. In the same time-frame, transaction prices for all automobiles rose only 13 percent.

This bodes well for Detroit’s profits. According to Morgan Stanley, the F series accounted for 90 percent of Ford’s profits, while the Silverado and Sierra generated two-thirds of GM’s earnings in 2012.  What is REALLY driving profits is high trims.

Says Automotive News:

“Pickup transaction prices have risen in large part because of increasing sales of high-end trims, including the F-150 King Ranch, the Ram Laramie and the upcoming Silverado High Country. A 4×4 2013 F-150 Limited has a starting price of more than $54,000.

Ford’s Scott said 30 percent of F-150 retail sales and more than half of F-series heavy-duty pickups are so-called high-series versions.

“Our high-series mix has never been better than it’s been these last couple of years,” Scott said. “If you go down in Texas, it’s not uncommon to see a King Ranch on a construction site. It’s their office. They’re working out of it. They want the refinement, but they need the capability as well.”

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Ford Creates Jobs By The Truckload Thu, 02 May 2013 09:26:25 +0000

Lower gas prices and a turn-around in the housing market rekindled America’s love for the pickup, resulting in 2,000 new jobs at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant.

The near doubling of the plant’s staffing is in response to surging demand for the Ford F-150 and the 2014 production start of the new Ford Transit. Suppliers are expected to grow their business accordingly. “According to the job multiplier effect of nine jobs to every one – more than 18,000 jobs will be created to support the plant,” Ford says in a statement.

Ford is investing $1.1 billion to retool and expand the facility for production of both the F-150 and Transit, including a 437,000 sq.-ft. stamping facility and a 78,000 sq.-ft. paint shop.

Ford says the expansion brings it “three-quarters of the way to its plan to create 12,000 hourly jobs in the U.S. by 2015.” That target was set in a deal Ford had cut with the UAW in 2011.

According to Reuters, “about 1,000 of the workers will be hired at the entry-level wage. Entry-level workers start at $15.78 an hour or nearly half the pay of traditional unskilled blue-collar Ford workers.

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Whoa! Where Did All The Pickups Go? Thu, 03 Jan 2013 19:39:07 +0000

The General attracted all kinds of flak for its growing inventory of full size trucks. When we raised the issue earlier in the year, we were chided for yellow journalism and blatant bias. Months later, the MSM woke up to the story, and when the Detroit News wrote that GM’s pickup truck inventory was “much higher than the less-than-100-day supply considered ideal for full-size pickups,” even the diehards accepted that the inventory may be a mite rich.

That problem just went away. Poof, gone, just like that.

Were GM’s dealers sitting on a mountain of full size pickups in November, enough supply to last for 139 days, a month later that inventory of BOFs suddenly is as lean as Heidi Klum on hunger strike. The year ends with GM’s plus-sized truck inventory sporting an ideal HWP. If GM’s stats are to be believed, then dealers just ripped through two months of supply, reducing the inventory from 139 days to a measly 80. GM’s truck inventory is right on target. All is good.

Did those trucks just fly off the lots, powered by incentives, easy money, and a rebounding economy? Well, they did. And herein lies the problem. The 80 days of inventory assume that the torrid pace of December continues well into the new year.

Let’s visualize the matter. Total inventory of GM pick-ups was up a little in at the end of November, and down a little at the end of December. Nothing dramatic. The drama starts when it is projected how many days that inventory represents.

Mathematically challenged may see nothing wrong in this graph. Someone who internalized the rule of three could rebel. How come 221,649 units are good for 80 days in December if a month earlier 245,853 units represented 139 days?

Full-size Pickups, Days Of Supply
Month Inventory Days Supply Sales/Day
October 235,585 110 2142
November 245,853 139 1769
December 221,649 80 2771

Driven by generous discounts, and some year-end tax buying, GM pickup sales jumped from some 44,000 in November to over 72,000 in December. Should the December sales pace continue into the new year, then the 80 days would be correct. Should the sales pace fall back to November levels, then the full-size truck inventory would reflect 125 days.  Which is more like the good old General we know.

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The Incentive Wars: GM Mounts All-Out Assault Tue, 18 Dec 2012 14:58:14 +0000

It did not take a high degree of intellect when we recommended last week to wait for a better deal if you are in the market for a Chevy or GMC pick-up.  GM threw its vaunted  fiscal discipline in the wind and is piling cash on the hood  of trucks that are piling up on dealer lots.

GM, says the Freep, is

matching or beating discounts from rivals Ford and Chrysler, offering up to $9,000 off remaining 2012 models and close to $4,500 off 2013s. That, plus low interest rates, sweet lease deals and abundant financing, is good news for people in the market for a truck.”

We never put much credence in the story that truck armadas must be kept in reserve such as not to run out of them when GM switches over to its 2014 models.

At the end of November, Chevy dealers had more than 169,000 Silverados nationwide,138 days of supply. Ford had a 90-day supply of F-150s, and Chrysler had 106 days’ worth of Rams.


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