By on December 1, 2016

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Pickup trucks are about as stereotypically American as firearms, baseball, Coca-Cola, and landing on the moon. However, General Motors and Ford don’t want us hoarding all that goodness and plan on exporting their piece of the American pie to the East. The Big Two want to place large American trucks in the hands of upscale Chinese buyers and establish the eminence of a vehicle China currently sees as little more than a tool for farming or construction.

Coincidentally, that is exactly how our love affair with the truck began. 

Trucks are only a sliver of the Chinese market right now, though. IHS Markit forecasts a 14 percent increase in pickup truck sales this year, but that only accounts for 1.4 percent of China’s light vehicle market.

Reuters suggests that this may be because so many trucks are restricted to overnight driving in a number of Chinese cities. As a working vehicle, they are largely impractical for personal use outside of rural areas. However, four less-urbanized provinces have launched a trial program allowing trucks into city zones in an attempt to stimulate production as economic growth and automobile sales stagnate.

Now, Ford and GM just need to solve an image problem. “The Chinese call it pika, pika – a very low-end worker’s [vehicle]. But the [Ford F-150] Raptor is totally different,” Wesley Liu, Ford’s Asia-Pacific sales director, told Reuters.

Considering that Pabst Blue Ribbon has managed to position itself as a popular luxury brand in China, the sales success of premium pickups doesn’t seem entirely out the question. The country’s love of Buick and growing affinity for Cadillac further substantiate its near obsession with all things it deems quintessentially American.

Buick sold 105,071 cars in October and Cadillac saw its sales more than double, posting a 117.6 percent increase from the year before.

Those products sell because they use prestige to differentiate themselves from domestic Chinese vehicles. With the lessened restrictions, U.S. automakers want to similarly distance their trucks from the local offerings while crafting a very specific image.

Reuters writes:

Ford and GM – which displayed its Chevrolet Colorado and Silverado trucks around the Guangzhou show, with t-shirt clad urban cowboys and an all-leather rock band selling the trucks’ macho, all-American appeal – have not yet announced prices for their pick-ups, expected to be launched next year. But they should command a sizeable premium to locally made models as China slaps a 25 percent tax on imports.

In April, Ford announced it would bring a performance version of its F-Series to China. A spokesman said the company was also studying whether to include mass-market model, like the F-150 or Ranger, to China, stating that it would likely come down to demand and future regulations.

“The people who buy the Raptor maybe own some other premium vehicle already. This is another toy,” Liu said.

He believes the Raptor is aimed at four types of buyers: wealthy buyers who want to make a splash, business owners that want something other than a traditional commercial vehicle, drivers who want a single all-purpose car, and enthusiasts who “just like the mechanics.”

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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48 Comments on “America’s Iconic Blue-collar Vehicles to be Marketed to China’s Upper Class...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    It seems like 90% of the repair parts for my S-10 are sourced from China, so they’re definitely tooled up for pickups, LOL.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      A sad state of affairs. GM is figuring out how to increase the Chinese parts content of their vehicles, even their used models! :p (I understand that these must be mostly non-OEM parts)

      Rock auto had the audacity to substitute in a generic Chinese-manufactured power steering belt for my Lexus instead of the Bando branded unit I expected per the description (it was one of their wholesaler ‘white box’ sales). Reordered the correct made in Japan Bando unit from Amazon and sent Rockauto a nasty-gram.

      My Aisin t-belt/waterpump kit had Koyo idlers and NTN tensioner made in Japan, and a really nice looking Mitsuboshi made in USA belt. Gates went down the tubes and now uses Chinese idlers. Not on my car!

      The last two Timken bearings I bought, inside the Timken box the first time was a Japanese Koyo, the second time it was an American-made Aisin hub assembly. A little odd perhaps, but I was happy enough.

      Moog has gone largely Chinese it seems, I avoid their stuff when possible.

      My monroe quick struts on the Maxima were made in USA which was encouraging.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Keep your GM car all GM.

        I recently saw in the service area of my local Toyota Dealer: “Keep your Toyota a genuine Toyota.” I wonder what the parts sources were for the recall work that was completed?

        • 0 avatar
          brn

          I wonder what folk who buy into the “genuine Toyota” bunk would think if they found out Toyota sources many of their parts from the same people Chrysler does. Often, the exact same part.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I’d be curious to see this part cross reference list.

            For what it’s worth, the way I’e learned to operate is to find out the OE supplier for a given part (Koyo and Aisin in the above example) and then buy the “aftermarket” part for much cheaper. In the example of a front bearing (replaced due to misdiagnosis) it was a $32 part with Amazon Prime free shipping instead of $64 for the same thing (plus shipping) from an online OE parts vendor. The difference is even more stark for the hub assembly. Same exact Aisin unit online for $132 shipped, versus $350-$400 for the same exacy “OEM” piece from Toyota. Can’t beat those savings!

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            “I’d be curious to see this part cross reference list.”

            I can 100 percent tell you that AC compressors built by Denso in North Georgia went to Toyota and Chrysler. My mother worked at the plant.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Nice! Well it sounds like Chrysler finally got some reliable AC compressors then! :p

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Ironically they had a big change in the management team there because a bunch of them were failing in both makes for a while but on the whole I think they were good. Come to think of it the only no BS compressor failures I’ve had on any cars were a VW Jetta and an Alfa Romeo 75. I’ve had plenty of leaks but those are the only two compressor failures.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I wonder if the Honda ones that explode and send their guts through the entire system are Densos…

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Honda lost a sale to us because whatever they use, it couldn’t keep up with the heat in Augusta GA. The Hyundai models down the road had no such issue.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            My dad’s Fit is horrible at cooling the interior. Anything over low 80s and it struggles (black interior+ big windows = hard to cool). My ’12 Civic that I had for 3 years actually had VERY good A/C. It lacked a lot of “Honda-ness” but at least as part of the Americanization they finally gave it an adequate HVAC system.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “Ironically they had a big change in the management team there because a bunch of them were failing in both makes for a while”

            and a number of execs ended up in prison for price-fixing.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    A billion Chinese in pickup trucks. That should go well.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    How do you say RAPTOR in Chinese anyway?

    Is there a translation for Z71 or Denali?

    Will they understand the subtext of a Ram REBEL?

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      They’re likely going to keep those model names in English, since that’s the appeal.

      Brand names often get translated, though model names may not be. You’ll still see the Bora, Jetta, Santana, etc. badges on cars there.

    • 0 avatar
      james_carrys_a_cop

      The Raptor is called 猛禽, which means, well, a raptor. Duh.

      There’s no Z71 or Denali yet.

      Bora is 宝来, meaning “treasures coming”. It reads BAH-O-LYE, which sounds like Bora.

      Jetta 捷达, “getting there fast”. G-YEAH-DUH, sounds like Jetta.

      Santana 桑塔纳, means nuffin, SAH-NG-TAH-NAH just reads like Santana.

      Rule of thumb: if it’s officially introduced, it’s name is transliteration. The Raptors are all smuggled, thus they have a literal name that reads nuffin like it sounds in Engrish.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Call them all Buicks the way Southerners call every pop a “Coke”.

    “You want a Ford Buick or a Chevy Buick, honey?”

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “pika, pika”

    I choose you! Flareon, go!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Full size crew cab pickups and large body on frame SUVs are the 21st century answer to the 70’s model full size cars such as Cadillac DeVille, Lincoln Continental, Ford Galaxy 500, Mercury Marquis, Chrysler New Yorker, Plymouth Fury, Dodge Monaco, Imperial and a host of other large full size vehicles from the past. This is a return to larger vehicles but instead of cars it is full size trucks and suvs. Everything comes and goes in cycles. Maybe next we will see a 21st century version of leisure suits, digital watches, shag carpets, and mood rings.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Trends always cycle but they are never exactly the same. The shag carpet might be a little thinner and maybe it is a different color just as the large land yacht cars of the past may not come back but the large suvs, crossovers, and pickups are today’s replacements for those vehicles. For a variety of reasons large cars didn’t come back mostly because of the EPA standards that penalize cars more than trucks and the utility of a truck. Fuel prices will eventually go up enough to where the trend will swing to smaller vehicles and then back again. It is actually a perfect time for a buyer looking to buy a hybrid or a tradition sedan since those vehicles are not the must have vehicles.

    The Chinese are not much different than many of us in that they like the nice big luxurious vehicles and the nicer things. Once most people, regardless of race, creed, or nationality, get better paying jobs and a higher financial status want the bigger and more luxurious things that they could not afford in the past. Just human nature.

    As for Jovan Musk, I found an old unused bottle of Brute which someone gave me for Christmas at least 30 or 40 years ago. When I opened the bottle to take a whiff I decided to throw it away remembering the reason why I never used it. Somethings are better left to the past.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      The only Fullsize car made that I know of is made by RollsRoyce otherwise consumers have no choices for true Fullsize cars today. Sure you have cars called “fullsize” but the truth is that a 2016 Impala is 73″ wide and spatially cramped while a 2016 Malibu is …73″ wide… and no better. Fullsize cars are not a thing in the American market anymore, and SUVs are the only option, even they are quickly becoming fewer and fewer which is leaving the only market left to 1/2 and 3/4 trucks.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The hard loaded, high performance, high end pickups, muscle and pony cars have always been the blue-collar heroes, even though they were mostly bought up by the middle class, rich and often, celebs/rockstars.

    Not that they don’t also buy their share of snob mobiles, exotics and supercars obviously.

    I grew up around the crank window “Custom” pickups, bought a few myself, so naturally high end pickups and pony cars are what mostly appeal to me now that I have some money to throw around. The elitist mobiles do absolutely nothing for me, never have.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    “America’s Iconic Blue-collar Vehicles to be Marketed ….”

    What a silly, archaic stereotype!
    There hasn’t been anything “blue collar” about most pickups sold here in years.
    That ended in the 1960’s.

    When you have full-luxury, 4-door, 4WD models running $65-$75K, it’s hardly “blue collar”!

    Pickup trucks are the new sedan: the REAL vehicles that we all hungered for, for decades.
    In an ironic way, they harken back to the late 1930’s and late 1940’s, when cars were big, tough, and capable.

    So pickups are now the do-all, be-all, haul-all, tow-all, go-anywhere, top-riding comfort vehicles. They can soak up tar strips and expansion joints, as well as major potholes, ruts, and boulders. And they even corner and handle well, with the introduction of rack-and-pinion steering on many models. And they can cruise happily at more than 85 mph on the highways when needed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKZRO5MwjYc).

    I’ve had least one pickup truck in residence since 1974, and would never leave home without one! In fact, I can’t — I sold my “inferior” 2006 BMW 325i sedan, after 6 years of pretending I liked that cramped, underpowered, overpriced, over-engineered, unreliable, incapable, poorly riding, piece of …..

    So, I certainly can’t blame the Chinese for seeing the “Light of Vehicular Salvation” coming upon them from Above….(^_^)….

    ======================

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    As an adjunct to my comment above, the Chinese are not the only national culture to begin embracing American pickup trucks.
    The largest assembly of Ram pickups in the world was recently “performed”, — NOT in Texas — but in GERMANY at the Nürburgring!! But many were just having fun with the “redneck” thing. Glad to see that some Yurp’s are getting real about vehicles….(^_^)…

    Ref’s:
    1) http://www.tfltruck.com/2016/11/rednecks-germany-around-1300-ram-pickup-truck-set-world-record-nurburgring/
    2) http://www.topspeed.com/trucks/truck-news/america-invades-germany-ram-trucks-drive-the-n-rburgring-setting-world-record-ar175121.html

    =========================

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