The $100,000 Pickup Truck is Real, and You Have Dealers and the Aftermarket to Thank For It

Seth Parks
by Seth Parks
the 100 000 pickup truck is real and you have dealers and the aftermarket to thank

The time is ticking ever closer to the day an OEM slaps a $100,000 MSRP on a truck. It will happen, and it won’t be long before it does.

In 1997, $27,000 bought a lavishly equipped F-150 Lariat SuperCab with a 5.4-liter V8. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $40,000 in today’s money. Adjusted for reality, that truck now carries a $45,000 MSRP. The $100,000 barrier will be crossed in perhaps a decade based on inflation alone, but inflation will not deliver the first $100,000 truck. Trim escalation and new equipment will cross the finish line first.

Regardless, OEMs won’t be the first to push MSRPs into the stratosphere. That distinction goes to the aftermarket, in conjunction with dealers. And, unsurprisingly, together they’ve already made a $100,000 pickup a reality.

But first, a quick rewind.

Ford truck shoppers in search of luxury in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s purchased a Lariat. King Ranch was added in 2001 and Platinum bowed in 2009. Thanks to increasing demand for up-scale trucks, Ford declared in July of last year, “There’s a Ford F-150 for every truck customer,” when it released its range-topping F-150 Limited. Indeed, Ford does have an F-150 for every budget. A base F-150 XL can be had for about $26,000. Load up your half-ton Limited and you can achieve a $69,000 MSRP.

Premium shoppers visiting a Ford store now have four trim levels to choose from (Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited). It may seem impractical to add this complexity to the design, supply chain, assembly, and marketing of the F-150, but the strategy has been an immense success.

According to TrueCar, the F-150’s average transaction price (ATP) during the first six-months of 2015 was $46,573. That’s 10-percent higher than Ram, at $42,256, and a massive 21-percent more than Silverado, at $38,384. Multiply the additional revenue Ford is earning across the 600,000 F-150’s it sold in the U.S. and Canada last year, and the Blue Oval generated an additional $2.6 billion versus what it would have if the F-150 ATP were equal to Ram, and $4.9 billion more than if it had equaled Silverado.

And it gets better for Dearborn: the incremental dollars earned on higher trim levels are its most profit laden, approaching a 50-percent gross profit margin versus approximately 25 percent on the first $35,000 of any truck it sell.

The escalation in trim levels has primarily included ever-more luxurious interior appointments and distinctive exterior esthetics. Bigger and brighter wheels, metallic paint, adaptive cruise control, and butt warmers do not, however, address the other end of the market. Off-road and outdoor enthusiasts are looking for something else. Consumers lifted and modified their trucks for decades before the OEMs began embracing the performance aftermarket. Over the years, OEMs built some factory trucks containing hints of the aftermarket, but their deeper commitment arrived only recently.

Jeep led the OEMs into the off-road enthusiast market in 2003 when it launched the Wrangler Rubicon. The Rubicon’s 10,000 rookie-year sales grew to over 22,000 by 2008. Between the Rubicon and the return of Dodge’s Power Wagon in 2005, Ford could see demand existed for trucks with off-road packages containing more than shocks, skid plates, and stickers. When Ford launched the Raptor in 2010, it finally tapped into the market’s enduring passion for legitimate off-road performance.

Ford will release its all-new Raptor soon. It will offer new features and capabilities — as well as the rising prices those bring. But it will not cost $100,000, and probably not even $80,000. The Raptor is well equipped, but does not bring together desert-stomping capability with the Limited trim level. Ram is the only manufacturer to combine its highest trim level (Laramie) with a truly capable off-road package (Power Wagon). This winch equipped, go-anywhere, three-quarter ton has 32-inch tires and everything FCA can offer, yet still it maxes out just over $60,000. Achieving a $100,000 MSRP will require, at the very least, combining high-end luxury and special off-road performance.

It’s this territory that continues to belong to the enterprising aftermarket via up-fitters and dealers, who’ve already crossed the $100,000 threshold.

In January, Honolulu Ford sold the first new F-Series at over $100,000. It was a Platinum F-250 diesel with $40,000 in aftermarket equipment provided by Dealer Services International (DSI).

DSI is the largest up-fitter in the country, serving 2,000 dealers across the U.S. and selling more than 700 modified trucks per month. The F-250 sold by Rhett Van Fossen at Honolulu Ford was the first DSI-modified truck in the country to fetch over $100,000.

The most in-your-face modifications to the stock truck included a 10-inch Fabtech lift, featuring its top of the line Dirt Logic coilovers, and 40-inch tires on 20-inch Fuel wheels. Additional aesthetic upgrades were added: color matched fender flares, new exhaust tips, window tint, and more. All of Honolulu Ford’s modified trucks are up-fitted at DSI’s partner, 4 Wheel Parts, located just west of Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, the record-breaking truck sold so rapidly the dealer captured no imagery before it left the lot; it didn’t even market the truck. Fortunately, they have other modified trucks, including a new monster with a $106,298 total on the addendum sticker. January’s record-setting F-250 is turning-heads wherever it goes on Oahu, but it’s record may not stand for long.

Ford Super Duty with $106,298 “Dealer Asking Price” Monroney sticker.

According to Guy Mello, a 20-year car business veteran and General Sales Manager at Honolulu Ford, they can’t get enough of these modified trucks. “We sold 40 units in 2015 and see a market for 60 or more this year, all without extra marketing dollars or flooring costs. The trucks speak for themselves – customers love them and so do we.”

Who buys a $100,000 F-Series?

Like many car shoppers, the high-end F-Series buyer does not visit the lot on a mission to buy one of these behemoths. These are people who went shopping for a truck, stumbled on something more expressive and individualized, and decided they wanted one. These are not traditional truck enthusiasts; those people visit 4 Wheel Parts or one of its competitors, pick out exactly what they want, and have their truck modified accordingly. This is an opportunistic purchaser who may have never even considered a modified truck. Consumers who purchase trucks like these from new car dealers are willing to pay for peace of mind and convenience. They expect their speedometer to read actual speed and their odometer to tally real miles.

Predictably, more than 90 percent of buyers are male. They are 40-60 years old and earn over $100,000 a year. Most finance their purchase and, although a significant down payment is required, Honolulu Ford has no trouble getting lenders to advance credit as much as 25-percent over MSRP for qualified buyers. Yes, that means you may qualify for a loan on one of these rigs if you have at least $20,000 to put down and can swing $1,000 to $1,500 per month.

These trucks are not for everyone, but that’s exactly the point. These buyers want something unique and extroverted. They aren’t willing to sacrifice their warranty and they want to roll it all into a single loan. Yes, they pay a premium, but this is as close to a $100,000 truck as we get … for now.

[Images: Honolulu Ford]

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4 of 164 comments
  • Jagboi Jagboi on Apr 28, 2016

    We are getting close in Canada without aftermarket additions. I priced out an F350 diesel crewcab dual rear wheel with most option boxes checked it came to $87,800.

    • See 1 previous
    • Drzhivago138 Drzhivago138 on Apr 29, 2016

      Not an F-450 Platinum? I won't say you did it wrong, but you could've done it better.

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on May 02, 2016

    A 97 "Lavishly Equipped" Lariat is equipped somewhere between today's XL and XLT model.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic I drove a rental Renegade a few years back. Felt the engine (TIgerShark) was ready was ready to pop out from under the hood. Very crude!! Sole purpose was CAFE offsets. Also drove a V6 Cherokee which was very nice and currently out of production. Should be able to scoop up one at a fair deal.🚗🚗🚗
  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...