The Truth About Cars » pickups The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +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 » pickups Next Nissan Titan Will Make Detroit Debut Thu, 10 Jul 2014 19:56:21 +0000 1024px-2008_Nissan_Titan

The next-generation Nissan Titan will make its debut in Detroit, at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.

The next Titan is a make or break product for Nissan, which has seen its half-ton entrant fare poorly in the segment, failing to gain ground on Detroit’s trucks or the Toyota Tundra. But Nissan has invested a lot into the new Titan, from poaching Ram’s truck guru to getting a diesel V8 engine as an optional powertrain.

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Cain’s Segments, July 2014: Trucks Wed, 02 Jul 2014 12:30:41 +0000 450x287x2011_Ford_F-250_XLT_-_07-10-2010-450x287.jpg.pagespeed.ic.glBn7tFc9o

89% of the pickup trucks sold in the United States in the first half of 2014 were full-size trucks, a segment of the auto market that has risen 4.3% so far this year.

Lost market share among the top pickup sellers in America, Ford and General Motors, has been swallowed up in large part by FCA’s Ram brand and the Toyota Tundra. Already this year, Ram has sold 33,541 more pickups than during the first six months of 2013.

Ford’s F-Series, on the other hand, is down by 1661 units. GM’s twins have combined to rise 1.1%, but their share of the full-size category, not even including the now extinct Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT, has fallen by more than a percentage point.

June 2014 was in large part a stronger example of this trend. F-Series sales dropped 11% to 60,560 units, the first time since February that Ford sold fewer than 63,000 F-Series trucks. We expect lower F-Series sales these days, as a number of customers will wait for a new 2015 F-150 and forego the discounted outgoing model. Ford dealers didn’t just miss out on a large number of F-Series sales in June, however, as utility vehicle volume was down 8%.

Meanwhile, Ram’s 20.4% market share in June was par for the course. Ram owned 20.3% in May, 21.4% in April, 22.9% in March, 20.2% in February, and 20.8% in January, a great deal better than the 18.3% Ram managed during the first half of 2013.

Unlike the Ford Motor Company, most of Ram’s relations performed above last year’s pace in June 2014, as well. Fiat sales jumped 11%, Jeep shot up 28% (thanks to Cherokee), and Dodge moved up 1%. Chrysler Group car sales continue to underperform, yet with 68% of the automaker’s sales coming from Ram pickups, Jeep, and minivans, the overall figures tend to impress.

We’re no longer seeing the kinds of decreasing market share figures from GM’s twins that we were earlier in the year – their February share slid by more than four percentage points – but the half-year numbers hark back to those especially disappointing days. Despite their freshness, GM’s full-size truck market share fell to 34.5% over the last six months from 35.6% during the equivalent period one year earlier. June volume was also down 1.5%. (Taking the fewer available selling days into account, the Silverado and Sierra were up 7.7%.)

At Toyota, the Tundra and better-selling Tacoma were responsible for 11.4% of all Toyota U.S. sales so far this year, including Lexus and Scion. Although the Tacoma consistently leads all small/midsize trucks, the Tundra’s steady improvements came to an abrupt halt in june after eight consecutive year-over-year monthly sales increases.

Clearly pickup trucks aren’t the essential motivating forces at Toyota that they are at Ford, GM, and Chrysler. The Ram P/U range is the Chrysler Group’s top seller in the U.S., accounting for 20% of first-half sales. Including the Avalanche, Escalade EXT, Colorado, and Canyon, pickup trucks have pulled in 22.9% of GM’s U.S. volume in 2014. (Full-size, body-on-frame SUVs generated one in ten GM sales in June.) At Ford MoCo, the F-Series, with no help from a Ranger, attracts 28.8% of the automaker’s sales.

Nissan? Sales are booming, but of the 704,477 new vehicles sold by Nissan and Infiniti over the last six months, only 5.1% have been Frontiers; only 0.9% have been Titans.

6 mos.
6 mos.
Ford F-Series
60,560 68,009 -11.0% 365,825 367,486 -0.5%
Chevrolet Silverado
43,519 43,259 +0.6% 240,679 242,586 -0.8%
Ram P/U
33,149 29,644 +11.8% 203,860 170,319 +19.7%
GMC Sierra
15,406 16,568 -7.0% 93,191 87,633 +6.3%
Toyota Tundra
8977 9759 -8.0% 57,987 51,565 +12.5%
Nissan Titan
976 1300 -24.9% 6416 8852 -27.5%
162,587 168,539 -3.5% 967,958 928,441 4.3%


6 mos.
6 mos.
Ford F-Series
37.2% 40.4% 37.8% 39.6%
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra
36.2% 35.5% 34.5% 35.6%
Ram P/U
20.4% 17.6% 21.1% 18.3%
Toyota Tundra
5.5% 5.8% 6.0% 5.6%
Nissan Titan
0.6% 0.8% 0.7% 1.0%
Full-Size Share Of
Total Pickup Truck Market
89.4% 87.9% 89.0% 87.1%
Full-Size Pickup Share
Of Total Industry
11.4% 12.0% 11.8% 11.9%
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GM’s Truck Market Share Slides In January Wed, 12 Feb 2014 14:00:09 +0000 450x299x2014-Silverado-02-450x299.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NG9-c_eHse

U.S. sales of full-size trucks slid 4.5% in January 2014 as the two leading manufacturers of pickups reported falling sales of all their big trucks.

Typically the slowest month of the year for new vehicle sales, this past January should be no different, as the U.S. auto industry generated 32,000 fewer sales than it did one year ago. Although minivans, commercial vans, and the vast SUV/crossover segment all expanded, passenger car sales plunged, year-over-year, and truck volume declined, as well.

Despite the Ford F-Series’ slight 1% (305 fewer units) drop in January sales, the market share of America’s best-selling vehicle in its own vehicle category expanded by more than a percentage point compared with January 2013.

FCA’s Ram pickup range improved its January market share by more than four points to the level where one out of every five full-size trucks sold were Rams. Year-over-year, Ram sales jumped 22%.

The only other big truck to report higher totals this year than last was the Toyota Tundra. Toyota has recorded four consecutive months of Tundra increases; only once in 2013 did the Tundra decline. But Tundra volume is well off the pace Toyota set in pre-recession 2007 when nearly 200,000 were sold – Tundra sales jumped 11% to 112,732 in 2013. January market share didn’t rise as much as Ford’s even as Toyota sold 886 extra Tundras.

GM’s losses were the bigger story during a disappointing January for trucks. Silverado sales plunged 18%; Sierra sales fell 13%. In total, GM sold more than 10,000 fewer full-size pickup trucks this January than in January 2013, a 20% drop.

Jointly, the Silverado/Sierra decline to 40,044 January sales resulted in a market share tally of 33.2%, down from 38.3% in January of last year. The GM twins outsold the Ford F-Series by 1450 units in January 2013, the second of three consecutive months in which the pair had outsold the F-Series. They have not done so since.

If we are to assume the two trucks themselves are to blame, rather than some combination of inside and outside forces, we can surely place some responsibility on the conservative nature of the redesign. Perhaps the exterior changes from one generation to the next needed to be as different as the changes made under the skin. It’s true, the serious truck buyer is well aware of the newness of the Silverado and Sierra. But the family truck buyer – a big reason for the mass expansion of the truck market – may not wish to pay more money in order to park a pickup in their driveway that doesn’t look much different from the pickup their neighbors bought two years prior.

Thus, with plenty of trucks on dealer lots and concern about losing market share to Ford even before the F-150 is replaced by the more boldly-designed 2015 model, GM will ramp up incentives with a long-running Presidents Day promotion, according to Automotive News. Clearly, for General Motors to avoid going head-to-head against Ford without F-150-like incentives would have required a more significant leap forward with the 2014 models. There’s a belief that truck buyers will pay more for the better truck, but how much better does that truck need to be?

Cadillac Escalade EXT
25 172 - 85.5% 0.02% 0.1%
Chevrolet Avalanche
31 1939 - 98.4% 0.03% 1.5%
Chevrolet Silverado
28,926 35,445 - 18.4% 24.0% 28.1%
Ford F-Series
46,536 46,841 - 0.7% 38.6% 37.1%
GMC Sierra
11,118 12,846 - 13.5% 9.2% 10.2%
Nissan Titan
887 1394 - 36.4% 0.7% 1.1%
Ram P/U
25,071 20,474 + 22.5% 20.8% 16.2%
Toyota Tundra
7890 7004 + 12.6% 6.5% 5.6%
126,115 - 4.5%
Total (Excluding EXT/Avalanche)
124,004 - 2.9%
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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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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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A Return To Compact Pickups? Don’t Count On It Tue, 12 Mar 2013 15:35:37 +0000

The Wall Street Journal‘s recent article on compact pickup trucks and rising gas prices has raised the tantalizing prospect of a return to the glory days of the compact pickups. But from what we hear, it would be premature to get your hopes up just yet.

So far, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon have been confirmed for sale in the United States – and that’s it. So what about the rumors of more compacts from Ford, Ram and even VW?

The common thread, as far as smaller pickups with improved fuel-efficiency and footprint, is that they are hard to justify. These days, $1 billion is the minimum cost of entry for developing a new model. Homologating a model to FMVSS standards is said to cost at least $50 million (a figure quoted for the Lotus Elise, which still managed to get an airbag waiver from NHTSA, doubtlessly saving tens of millions of dollars). There is no way to do it on the cheap, and that remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the OEMs.  That and CAFE. And the chicken tax.

In addition, full-size trucks have become cheap enough that the idea of an affordable compact truck now seems redundant. America doesn’t have the same space constraints that Europe, Asia and South American cities do, so something with a smaller physical footprint doesn’t have the same appeal in the USA. And don’t forget any compact truck must be a global product in today’s market.

GM is in a unique position with the Colorado and Canyon, having been developed with global sales in mind – much of the development work was done in Thailand (the world’s second biggest pickup truck market), but the vehicle is ready to go for sale in the USA. The global Ford Ranger on the other hand, is about 90 percent of the F-150′s size, meaning it is too close in size and price to be sold here. It’s also not coming here due to the costs of certifying it. Ram may yet launch a “lifestyle” unibody truck, but again, the Ram’s new V6 fuel economy, lower price and all-around appeal is doing a good job of negating any benefits from selling a unibody truck.

But there is a ray of sunshine for compact truck enthusiasts. We already have two great mid-size trucks, the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, on sale right now. Of course, in the rush to covet product that we cannot buy in America, we forget about what’s already in front of us.

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Detroit Bets On Pick-Up Of Pick-Up Sales Mon, 19 Nov 2012 17:31:35 +0000

U.S. gasoline prices averaged $3.47 a gallon last week on weak demand, says Reuters. At the same time, record low mortgages instill life in the real estate market and rev up housing starts.  All of this makes auto companies bet on a pick-up of pick-up sales.

What’s more, existing pick-up are getting old and creaky.  53 percent of full-size pickups are now older than 10 years and 27 percent are more than 15 years, Ford’s Americas President Mark Fields told the New York Daily News.

Carmakers are already putting more pickup on dealer lots. As of Nov. 1, Ford had 238,000 pickups in its inventory, up from 192,000 at the same time last year.

Chrysler said it will add 1,250 workers and invest $240 million in three Detroit-area plants to boost truck and engine production.

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Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: Scion And Daihatsu Considering Joint Small Pickup For US? Wed, 09 Nov 2011 19:11:21 +0000

With traditional compact pickups growing into the new “midsized” segment, Scion has long been tipped as a likely candidate to lead the US market back towards smaller, car-based pickup trucks. And, Scion’s VP Jack Hollis tells TTAC’s sister site Autoguide that such a vehicle, though not a certainty, could be possible.

Versus other vehicles, I can’t say it’s priority one. I’m very interested in it. A lot of prospective owners are interested in it and every meeting I have in Japan, I’m asking, what else can we do.

Hollis reveals that he has, in the past, pushed for an imported Daihatsu pickup for Scion’s US lineup, but that regulatory issues killed the business case. But now he’s suggesting that Scion and Daihatsu might jointly develop a small, fuel-efficient pickup… just as Subaru and Toyota/Scion developed the FT-86 together. If that happens, I’d expect something larger than Daihatsu’s typical kei-style trucks, for reasons hinted at in the video above. And to help you understand the legacy that a Daihatsu-Scion pickup might draw upon, here are a few random images of Daihatsu “trucks” (or possible inspirations) through the ages.
daihatsu_rugger_pair_1993 daihatsuad daihatsubasket daihatsufourtrak daihatsuhijet daihatsulegacy daihatsumiratruck DaihatsuMudMaster daihatsunaked daihatsuruggerpickup daihatsutaft daihatsutaft1 daihatsutriketruck daihatsutruck OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA daihatsuvan

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Why Toyota And Ford Hooked Up: It’s The CAFE Credits, Stupid Mon, 22 Aug 2011 21:21:19 +0000

Today’s announcement of a memorandum of understanding between Ford and Toyota, uniting the two firms’ pickup truck hybrid drivetrain efforts, took quite a few industry-watchers by surprise this morning. As the industry leader in hybrid technology, Toyota has limited past hybrid cooperation to licensing its drivetrain wholesale to Nissan and a patent-sharing agreement with Ford. Moreover, the last big alliance aimed at developing hybrid technology for full-sized pickups, the Two-Mode V8 hybrids developed jointly by GM, Chrysler, Mercedes and BMW, have been a huge flop on the market, with the German partners walking away from the technology after using it in only a single application each (X5/X6, and ML Hybrid). Though Toyota and Ford have worked together to prevent a messy patent war over hybrid technology, there was little to suggest that they would take the cooperation any further, let alone join forces to hybridize full-size pickups. But if you’re looking to the marketplace to explain the Ford-Toyota tie-up, you’re looking in the wrong place: this is all about the freshly-announced CAFE standard and its generous credit system.

Of course, that’s not how the move is being pitched… at least on the surface. But in his announcement of the deal, Toyota Executive VP Takeshi Uchiyamada makes it clear that the hybrid and telematics alliance is entirely focused on the US market, saying:

Our collaboration with Ford is a move to make hybrid technology more widely available in sport-utility vehicles and in trucks. Those kinds of models are indispensable to American customers. And providing them with our hybrid technology will help conserve energy and reduce output of greenhouse gas here in the United States. That was our thinking in considering the collaboration.

How does Uchiyamada-san know how “indispensable” full-sized pickups are to Americans? The issue of full-sized trucks has dominated the debate over 2017-2025 CAFE standards, with the industry and its allies intervening to lower truck standards and increase the credit loopholes that make it easier to keep pickups relatively thirsty. This had two effects: first, the lowering of truck standards confirmed that large pickups would be worth investing in over the long term, and second, one loophole in specific provides huge incentives to hybridize full-sized trucks.

I covered the rough outlines of this credit loophole in my write up of the proposed rule, but to refresh your memory, here’s what the rule itself [PDF] says about its hybrid pickup credit

The agencies intend to solicit information on technologies that offer significant increases in fuel efficiency and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. We intend to propose a credit for manufacturers that employ significant quantities of hybridization on full size pickup trucks, by including a per-vehicle credit available for mild and strong hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). This provides the opportunity to begin to transform the most challenging category of vehicles in terms of the penetration of advanced technologies, allowing additional opportunities to successfully achieve the higher levels of truck stringencies in MY 2022-2025.

In other words, not only did the government reduce the required rate of efficiency improvement for trucks to nearly half what it is for cars, they also went a step further by giving credits for specific (i.e. hybrid) technology. Absent these credits, it’s highly likely that truck-dependent manufacturers would have looked to diesel power as a way to cheaply provide high-torque, high-efficiency truck powerplants, but with the feds placing their finger on the scale in favor of hybrids, Ford has no choice but to invest in the technology. And as the only Detroit-based (and therefore heavily truck-dependent) automaker to not have access to the Two-Mode technology, Ford had to move fast to find a partner. Though Chrysler and GM’s Two-Modes may not have been successful so far, they at least provide the building blocks for future development.

Besides, as we read more about the hybrid pickup credits, it’s clear that even if the 2017+ hybrid pickups aren’t super-efficient, the credits make them incredibly valuable.

The agencies intend that access to this credit is conditioned on a minimum penetration of the technology in a manufacturer’s full size pickup truck fleet, with defined criteria for a full size pickup truck (e.g., minimum bed size and minimum towing capability). The agencies intend to propose that mild HEV pickup trucks are eligible for a 10 g/mi12 credit during 2017-2021 if the technology is used on a minimum percentage of a company’s full size pickups, beginning with at least 30% of a company’s full size pickup production in 2017 and ramping up to at least 80% in 2021. Strong HEV pickup trucks would be eligible for a 20g/mi credit during 2017-2025 if the technology is used on at least 10% of the company’s full size pickups.

The agencies will propose specific definitions of mild and strong HEV pickup trucks, but expect to include stop/start, regenerative braking, minimum motor power, minimum battery voltage value and minimum energy storage capacity, or similar types of objective metrics. The agencies expect that a “mild” HEV will include moderate hybridization and not just start/stop, and that a “strong” HEV will include launch assist.

Let’s assume for the moment that the Ford-Toyota pickup drivetrain, which each company will integrate into future vehicles independently of one another, meets the government’s requirement for “strong” hybrids. If you look at the changes in maximum truck C02 targets from 2017-2025, they increase by the following amounts:

2017-2018: 5.5g/mile
2018-2019: 3.1g/mile
2019-2020: 1.9g/mile
2020-2021: 1.9g/mile
2021-2022: 14g/mile
2022-2023: 15.2g/mile
2023-2024: 14.6g/mile
2024-2025: 13.9g/mile

But under this credit system, if ten percent or more of your truck fleet have “strong hybrid” drivetrains, each truck earns a 20g/mile credit which can be applied to under-complying vehicles, “banked” for future under-compliance or “carried-back” for past under-compliance. In theory, this also means that a 2017 model-year pickup that exactly met the maximum CO2 target for that year would add 14.5g/mile to the automaker’s fleetwide efficiency rating in 2018, without improving its efficiency at all. In 2019, it would add 11.4g/mile in credits without improving efficiency, by 2020 the credit would shrink to 9.5 and in 2021 it would still be adding 7.6g/mile in credits despite not improving since 2017. If, for example, Ford had decided it could meet CAFE in that window with diesel technology alone, it would only receive additional credits if it “significantly” overcomplied with the standard, year-by-year. To wit:

The agencies also intend to propose a performance based incentive credit for full size pickup trucks which achieve a significant reduction below the applicable target. This credit could also be on the order of 10-20 gm/mile vehicle. The same vehicle would not receive credit under both the HEV and the performance based approaches.

Without a hybrid pickup drivetrain to build off of the way GM and Chrysler do, Ford has two choices for its truck strategy in 2017 and beyond: either keep costs as low as possible and hope it can undercomply with improved gas and diesel engines and improved aerodynamic efficiency and/or weight loss, or find a partner for hybrid technology and receive significant credits tied only to its use of hybrid technology rather than its actual efficiency. If that’s not a no-brainer, I don’t know what is.

But what does Toyota get out of the deal? Though it’s the clear leader in hybrid technology, its drivetrains have all been been based on transverse engines and front-wheel drive. Toyota’s expertise in full-sized, American-market trucks pales in comparison to Fords, and at this point it could even be said that Ford has the head-start on hybrid pickups, having begun joint development (with CCEFP and Folsom Technologies) on a hydraulic hybrid F-150. Autopacific analyst Dave Sullivan has another take, writing at that

Based on the press conference today, it pretty much sounds like Toyota has a RWD hybrid system in development but they need Ford’s sales volume to make it work from a cost perspective.

Whether Toyota or Ford started development first almost doesn’t matter (the press release says “both companies have been working independently on their own future-generation rear-wheel drive hybrid systems”). For Ford, a hybrid pickup drivetrain is must-have technology, due to the CAFE loopholes. For Toyota, which is less dependent on full-sizers, the need isn’t quite as dire (as CAFE offers plenty of credit opportunities for plug-in cars), but Sullivan is absolutely right that having Ford as a partner will lower costs dramatically. All in all, the deal seems to be a win-win… if only because of the way future CAFE standards were written.

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In The Midst Of CAFE Negotiations, GM Re-Invests In Trucks Wed, 20 Jul 2011 20:43:53 +0000

[UPDATE: GM responds to this piece here]

With environmentalist groups on the warpath over forthcoming 2017-2025 CAFE standards, trucks sitting on lots, and the Flint HD Pickup plant idled for much of the month, this is probably not exactly the moment GM might have chosen to put $328m into tooling for new full-sized pickups to be built at Flint. But time and the market wait for no company, and because the Silverado is GM’s single best-selling product, the investment isn’t tough to justify:

“Truck sales play an important role in the success of General Motors,” said Joe Ashton, UAW-GM Vice President. “We are confident that the next-generation of trucks will continue to be an important source of revenue for the company and jobs for our members

In case there’s any confusion though, GM is making perfectly sure nobody thinks they’re making any product choices because of union demands. At the investment announcement ceremony at Flint, Cathy Clegg, GM vice president of labor relations told Reuters [via Automotive News [sub]]

We certainly aren’t going to make a decision and make a commitment solely as a way of getting an agreement. If the market doesn’t drive it, we can’t do that

So, how is that truck market?

GM’s presser notes

GM’s retail share of the full-size pickup market has grown to 40.4 percent through May compared with 37.7 percent in the first five months of 2010.

That’s not bad at all…but it doesn’t really answer the question. So, how is that truck market?

Not bad at all! From 2008 until well into last year it seemed like cars would pull away from the trucks, but the big boys have staged a comeback. And all the growth has been in domestics too, as import brand truck sales have been stalled since the ’08 downturn. In the short term that’s great for Detroit, but in the long term it’s also the first hint of trouble for the overall market. For more let’s dig into those truck numbers

Here’s what happens when you break those trucks into what they really are: pickups, SUVs and vans. With this breakdown we can see that the pickup market isn’t looking all that solid at all, and looks unlikely to ever return to the 3m+ annual sales levels of its halcyon days. All the growth in “trucks” is coming from SUVs… and you can probably guess what the next drilldown is…

Here’s your roaring “truck” market: car-based crossovers, not body-on-frame dinosaurs. With truck-based SUVs headed back down and pickups going nowhere, the long-term prospects for the next-generation of truck platforms aren’t stellar. Let’s hope GM has seen the handwriting on the wall and will have some forward-thinking surprises for the new full-sizers, because in a market like this they need to keep winning retail share. And because nearly two million annual truck units is worth chasing, because Flint’s big trucks are important to GM’ relationship with the UAW and because the Volt is built for those bankable, swappable CAFE credits, this pickup investment is a no-brainer… for now, anyway.

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Review: Ford SVT Raptor Fri, 20 Nov 2009 16:01:07 +0000 Raptor at rest

It would be difficult to conceive of a vehicle better-suited to demonstrating TTAC’s diversity of automotive reviewers than the massive and massively outrageous Ford Raptor. Robert Farago would have eviscerated it with a zero-star diatribe on the inadvisability of building three-ton boutique trucks with borrowed funds. Sajeev Mehta would rhapsodize about the graphics but demonize the chunky controls. Daniel Stern might be have complained about the lighting system. As fate would have it, however, I’m the fellow who got the Raptor to review. So I took it mudding.

DSC_0513In many ways, the big-bird Ford is merely the donor F-150 writ large, both in excellence and shortcomings. From the aero-look 1997 model onward, Ford has provided the best full-sized truck money can buy and equipped it with the worst engines in the class. The Raptor does nothing to change this situation. In terms of build quality, on-board electronics, comfort, and equipment it’s simply better than the rest, but the 5.4-liter “Triton” engine is as miserably inadequate as ever. The 6.2-liter “Boss” V-8 is supposedly arriving any moment now, but until then pickup buyers who demand first-class thrust will need to look in the direction of a HEMI-powered Dodge or Sierra Denali. Not that anything short of a JATO rocket would make the Raptor genuinely quick. It’s a massive vehicle, drawn to an outsized scale and then further widened with bespoke bodywork and suspension components. Compared to the 1995 F-150 XL regular-cab I drove as a demonstrator in my auto sales days, the Raptor might as well be from a different class of truck, or possibly a different planet entirely.

The press-preview journalists got to drive the Raptor up and down a variety of sand dunes and pre-arranged “whoops,” but I had to settle for driving up a tall residential curb at steadily increasing rates of speed. I finally lost courage at the 50-mph mark, not because there was a problem with the SVT’s ability to absorb the curb, but because the children playing in the adjacent yard were becoming more and more difficult to miss without tipping the truck up onto two wheels. (I’m just kidding. Save your comments.) Suffice it to say that this would be an outstanding vehicle for bank robbers, drive-by artists, or anyone else who might find themselves bounding across urban terrain at full tilt. Nothing else can touch it under these circumstances.DSC_0425

As a relative novice to the world of off-roading, I felt singularly inadequate to review the Raptor’s broken-field prowess. To find out whether or not the big Ford was a faker, I obtained the assistance of my colleague Sid Noblitt, who recently followed the “Paris-Dakar” rally on a single-cylinder motorcycle. Sid and I went to his personal 160-acre playground to try a variety of stream crossings and plowed-field mischief. It had rained for nearly a week, ensuring that the ground literally swallowed the Raptor’s tires down to the axle whenever we came to a halt for more than a moment or two. Still, it was relatively easy for me to climb mud-slathered hills at full speed and to reach near-freeway speeds across ruts that would pitch a motocrosser over the bars. A few times I got stuck and Sid literally pushed the Raptor out of trouble with his bare hands. No idea how he did it, given that he weighs about a thirtieth of what this monster truck does.
DSC_0380Perched six feet off the ground in the Raptor’s aesthetically-questionable, two-tone cockpit, I felt hilariously removed from all the differential-locking and traction-controlling going on beneath me. The 1997 F-150 benchmarked the contemporaneous Crown Victoria for NVH; this one probably matches a Lexus ES350, at least until wind noise comes into play. There’s a full SYNC and navigation system to amuse the itinerant off-roader; it’s possible to check movie listings and recent sports results while spinning all four wheels up and over fallen trees. I returned the truck to Ford with mud on the friggin’ roof; at 6′2″ I still couldn’t figure out a way to wash it adequately without resorting to a stepladder.

How, then, shall we rate this Raptor? Against the competition, it’s a five-star truck, primarily because it has no effective competition short of a Pinzgauer. Measured on the social-responsibility scale, it’s a terrible affront to humanity and should immediately be erased from history in the Orwellian fashion so beloved of America’s self-appointed intellectual elite. As a toy, it’s capital fun and worth every penny. Perhaps the best method by which to measure this rather unique product is against the Platonic ideal of a factory off-road-special half-ton truck. By that scale, only the weedy engine prevents it from being as good as one can imagine such an object. We’ll deduct one star for lack of poke and call the SVT F-150 what it is: the best-ever entry in its lonely, but fascinating, category.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Mahindra MIA Edition Wed, 18 Nov 2009 22:14:01 +0000 Yes, but where are they actually?

Autoblog ran this picture purporting to show the locations of future dealers of Mahindra and Mahindra pickup trucks. This piqued our interest because we’ve been curious to see how the Indian firm’s plans to bring diesel-only compact pickups and SUVs to the US market would play out for some time. Over a year ago Mahindra said it would be delaying its US launch (originally planned for Spring 2009) until the fourth quarter of 2009 because, as Mr Mahindra himself put it “my family’s name is going onto this vehicle, and it’s not going to fail.” Well, here we are in the fourth quarter, and Mahindra is still calling the dots on the map “potential” outlets. They’ve also apparently pushed back the launch date again, to the first quarter of 2010. Automotive News [sub] reported way back when that Mahindra’s distributors (Global Vehicles USA) were asking for $200,000 in franchise fees. Maybe finding folks willing to pay that amount for the honor of selling diesel-only compact trucks and utes are hard to come by. Either way, it’s getting to be defecate-or-get-off-the-pot time.

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