By on November 6, 2017

2017 Ford Ranger, Image: Ford Europe

Don’t worry, they aren’t suffering. As shown by the rise of pickup trucks as daily drivers and family haulers in North America, Europe’s burgeoning love affair with versatile light trucks isn’t hurting the owners. It’s traditional passengers car makers who must worry.

Sales stats arriving from the Continent show a marketplace that’s increasingly different from years gone by. The increasing popularity of SUVs and crossovers in the land of diesels, manual transmissions, and small displacements is nothing new, but the exploding popularity of honest-to-God pickups is.

According to JATO Dynamics data published by Automotive News Europe, midsize pickup sales in Europe rose 19 percent in the first half of 2017. While that only amounts to 80,300 pickups sold, a fraction of the 216,194 sold in the U.S. in Q1 2017, the segment’s just getting started. Some analysts expect volume to top 200,000 units next year.

What’s fueling the hunger for a vehicle type long associated with public works crews, laborers and nothing else? Choice, for one thing, but also — to some degree — government regulations.

With fuel economy and emissions standards growing ever stricter, the traditional body-on-frame SUVs used by the well-heeled to pull trailers and boats are dwindling from the marketplace. Crossovers, especially those with small-displacement turbocharged engines and multi-cog transmissions, can’t cut it. Enter the body-on-frame midsize truck and its often hefty towing capacity.

In the UK, by far the biggest truck-buying country in Europe, the demise of the revered Land Rover Defender made consumers take a second look at the Ford Ranger for such duties. Pickup sales rose 17 percent in the UK in the first half of 2017. In Germany, it was 15 percent. France saw pickup sales rise 20 percent, while sales in Sweden and Italy rose 24 and 20 percent, respectively.

renault alaskan, Image: Renault

So promising is the fledgling segment, automakers are scrambling to field European-market pickups. Volkswagen already sells its Amarok, while Nissan’s Navara, Mitsubishi’s L200/Triton, Fiat’s Fullback, Ford’s Ranger, and Toyota’s Hilux round out the available offerings. Catering to buyers in the luxury market, Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class appears this year.

Renault — hardly a name you associate with rugged, do-anything private vehicles — is now considering whether it should sell its overseas-market Alaskan pickup (based, like the X-Class, on the Navara) in Europe. Meanwhile, PSA Group, maker of Citroën and Peugeot cars, wonders whether it should enter the fray or risk being left behind. The French automaker announced a joint venture with China’s Changan Automobile in September for a midsize, Chinese-market pickup. Maybe Europeans would like it, too.

With the exception of the Ranger, which comes to America in 2019, there’s little Detroit presence in the European truck field. If you’ve got the cash to spend, importers like AEC Europe will get you behind the wheel of a Ram 1500, which is exactly what one French man did.

In a recent interview with Trucks.com, Philippe Leroy describes his purchase of a gas-guzzling, lane-hogging 1500 back in 2009. The French cards were stacked against the obese American vehicle, but he soon grew to love it. He’s bought a new one from a Paris importer every two years since.

“At first, they don’t understand why I’m driving such a car,” Leroy said of the naysayers. “But when I talk about the benefits for buying this car, they understand. It’s the perfect truck for everyday living.”

[Images: Ford Europe, Renault]

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45 Comments on “Europeans Slowly Fall Victim to Pickup Truck Fever...”


  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Mon dieu!!

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    This is paraphrased conversation I had a summer ago with an Italian and Brit colleague. Were in San Francisco at a company get-together

    Euro: Why would anyone need such a gas guzzler, killer of the environment?

    Me: Uhm I dunno to tow a boat to the lake

    Euro: Yes but how many people have a boat? Has to be a very small number

    Me: Actually, where I live pretty much everyone has a boat, some people have two

    Euro: That is not possible

    They just couldn’t believe that your typical middle class joe shmoe owns a boat. That’s because owning a boat in Europe is for only the very rich. The peasants don’t own boats, or own travel trailers, or other things that need towing. So to them owning a truck is just silly and purely a killer of baby seals, as opposed to serving a utilitarian purpose. Same thing with an SUV. The typical family in Europe has 1 or zero kids. They don’t need a Suburban and can’t understand why any American family would either. The notion of a family with 3 or 4 kids, that all need to be transported at the same time is a foreign concept to them.

    And then later on we got talking about guns……LOL. That was fun.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      I remember one time i was talking to a French dude from Paris and he thought it was impossible that in America even the poor can have both a driveway AND a garage.

      • 0 avatar
        spreadsheet monkey

        Driveway, Garage, Healthcare. “The poor” can pick any two!

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Hmm, I think there are quite a few places in America where the poor can’t have either a driveway or a garage. In fact, in some cities and suburbs, the middle class can’t have those things either, unless your parents die and there’s anything left after the health care costs, funeral expenses, residual debt are satisfied.

        You can’t just go get a factory job, buy a house, and start a family at age 20 anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      I feel like I’ve had this same conversation with German colleagues, as well as one Brit who said something at dinner about how “with his luck, his daughter will meet and marry some NRA member or something while I’m working here,” to which I responded that he doesn’t have to worry about me because I’m already married.

      Of course, fast forward 5 years and I’m committed to never sending the NRA another dime of my money and Europeans are beginning to buy pickup trucks. Change is the only constant it seems.

    • 0 avatar
      OliverTwist78

      That brought lot of memories for me…

      We moved to Dallas, Texas in the 1970s because my father was on loan to the American branch of German conglomerate. The American dream was real for us when we bought a huge house with four bedrooms, three and half bathrooms, two living rooms, a garage for three cars, driveway in the front, huge backyard with covered patio and swimming pool, and so forth.

      Our German relatives couldn’t understand why we needed four cars (one for each member of the family), staggering nine television sets (one for each bedroom, one for garage, one for kitchen, one for breakfast room, one for office, etc.), two air conditioning units (one for half of the house and one for other half), etc. They couldn’t understand why our bedrooms had to be bigger than their living rooms.

      We tried to explain that living in Texas meant completely different lifestyle due to lower cost of living and wide open space. Texans weren’t too keen on public transportation for many years so owning a car was necessity, not luxury. They didn’t believe that petrol was so ridiculously cheap in Texas as compared in Germany.

      We gave up trying to put sense in their stubborn German minds…

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @I-Like, what of all the caravans owned and driven in the UK. Often being towed by vehicles no larger or more powerful than a Honda HR-V?

    • 0 avatar
      Heavymetal_Hippie

      A good way to sum up why Americans have so many trucks, such large vehicles, and ten tons of “toys” they need to tow with those vehicles could be summarized in one word: DEBT.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I like stuff,
      Really?

      So is the US full of boats?

      Weather and access to acceptable fishing locations play a role.

      • 0 avatar
        TeamInstinct

        Depends on where you are, in my area of Iowa we have lots of boats and it’s really only nice enough for them 4 maybe 5 months out of the year if you’re lucky. We’ve always had a boat in my family and I haven’t fished ever, couldn’t tell you one thing about it. My favorite thing to do out on the water is just cruise around the lake and/or river in my area, go to a beach, and get drunk lol.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Lot of boats and travel trailers in my neck of the woods.

    • 0 avatar
      Heino

      We want brown diesel manual wagons and the Europeans want the equivalent of an F-150. Reminds me of my mother – Do not get a motorcycle! Um safety? No you might meet girls! All three of us bought motorcycles.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      In the Norwegian language, saying something “is texas” means it is crazy. My guess is that originated in the 70s, when Texans were among the first to develop then poor Norway into a super rich oil nations. Tales from the home country were so outrageous that they coined a term.

      That said, differences aren’t that big anymore. There are bigger differences between people who are smart with their money, and others who are not, within one country than between them, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I assume you are from Michigan as I believe we have more boats per capita than anywhere else in the country, even so, I don’t think “everyone” has a boat….not even close. I live within 20 minutes of several navigable waterways/lakes and definitely live in an area where most could afford boats…but very few boats sitting in driveways. Most people I know who own boats have a slip and don’t trailer them. Moreover, most boats can be towed with something far less than a full sized pickup truck, but overkill is the American way I suppose.

      Speaking of overkill being the American way, I know ALOT of people who drive trucks, my sleepy suburban neighborhood is filled with them and I know for a fact that they neither tow nor haul anything….ever. There really is no excuse for how well pickups sell. They are bought primarily by people who just enjoy driving them as commuter/family vehicles for some reason I have yet to fully grasp. I still think the popularity of pickups in the US is due primarily to a phenomenon where pickup truck sales build on themselves because of the negative impact they have on the world around them.

      It becomes so annoying to be stuck behind, towered over, boxed in by, harassed by, pickup trucks on the road that the only solution is to buy your own. The sheer volume of Pickup trucks on the road make driving a low slung vehicle more challenging, annoying, less pleasurable in general when all you can see is the tailgate of the pickup truck in front of you that is taller than the roof of your car. As pickups have grown larger, the motoring public’s discontent grew as well, fuelling yet more sales of pickups to avoid all the pitfalls of driving in a sea of farm equipment on the way to work. If you want to have a view of the road in front of you rather than the pickup in front of you,…..If you want to see oncoming traffic unobscured at driveways and corners by a pickup, etc, etc…..than you have to just bite the bullet and join the club. I truly believe there is something to the phallus extender theory as well. If that’s the only thing in your life making your feel like a man, well….why wouldn’t you like to pretend….. even if just for your 30 minute commute.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    In Europe they tax the crap out of gasoline and diesel, which means that driving holidays with boat and camper are not very popular due to the high cost (except for the 1%ers), but flight tickets are very cheap. So instead of driving 100 miles to the lake in a pickup, most Europeans do the environmentally sensible thing and fly halfway around the world for their holidays – and since they only work about 8 months per year (assuming they have a job in the land of 12% unemployment), they may take 2 or 3 such jet propelled holidays per year.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Many EU countries are population dense and I suspect that land and water access is rather limited. That alone would sour the need for a pickup to tow or haul toys and limits the space to park/store toys. High speed trains and a better public transit system will take you almost anywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        I_like_stuff

        The EU is 2M sq miles with a population of 700M.

        The US is 3M sq miles (excluding Alaska) with a population of 330M.

        So while the EU is more dense, there’s plenty of wide open spaces, lakes, rivers, etc to afford them the opportunity to tow something to a lake, go camping, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @I_like_stuff – thanks for the information.

          Urban areas are becoming more dense and rural areas less inhabited. It does depend upon on who owns/controls access to land and water. I suspect that a large portion of the EU is no different than the USA where most of the land is privately owned. 72% of USA land is privately owned.

        • 0 avatar
          michal1980

          so 350 people per sq mile, vs 110people per sq mile. so ignoring the concentration of cities, the EU is 3x as packed as the USA.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Sweden is an exception. There are so many lake and so much coastline that many, many, people own second homes, caravans or boats.

        In the summer of 2010, we were in Sweden visiting friends who have a summer house on an island 50 miles north of Stockholm. We drove there in a rented Golf. On the small road on the island, I was almost run off the road by two different Avalanches and one Silverado. Swedes have always loved big American cars. Benny Andersson (a childhood friend of my sister) of ABBA was in a band called the Hep Stars in the mid 1960s. Their second album is titled “Cadillac” and the cover features a gorgeous black ’65 Sedan De Ville owned by the band.

        • 0 avatar
          Heino

          I guess I understand the fascination. Seeing jacked up F-250 diesels in Iceland. Followed by F-150’s and Silverados at construction sites. Finally the Cadillac Fleetwoods and the Buick LeSabres in Reykjavik. Munich with it’s Escalades was similar. While every body pines for JDM metal here, I would settle for an Opel Manta (sans mullet).

          • 0 avatar
            Reino

            Iceland seemed like “Europe-lite” to me. It could almost be a 51st state. In fact, it’s more American than Hawaii in some regards.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      What of the blight on UK highways created by ‘caravans’. Ask May and Clarkson about those.

  • avatar
    BigKoppa

    “…the UK, by far the biggest truck-buying country in Europe…”

    The UK is not a country. Just sayin’.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    “…they’re not suffering.”

    Thank god they don’t know what they’re missing!

    But while I don’t believe “tariffs” impact markets when there’s sufficient “demand” (think “loopholes”), why are auto journos all too quick to point out the US imposed “Chicken tax” on import pickups, and at the same time are they too dumb to know Europe imposes the same duty (22.5% actually) on all their import pickups? Plus a 10% EU tariff on import cars never mentioned, including “grey market”??

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    Just a few thoughts here:
    1. The Renault Alaska looks 10x better than the Mercedes Xclass
    2. Where is my damn RANGER!
    3. Where is my damn Ranger RAPTOR!

    OK, I’m good..

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    US pickups will find the EU challenging.

    As the article stated midsize pickups rule the market. Most of these have 2 to 2.3 litre engines.

    I did see some fake news above regarding tax or more correctly VAT on pickups imported from the US.

    The 22% tax is based on bed length. Dual cabs probably don’t have the VAT.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Who said anything about American full size trucks being sold there (outside of a few that are distributed through an importer, not directly marketed by the manufacturer)? So, you’re making up a scenario in order to paint American trucks in a bad light. Just like everything else you post, in other words.

      Ford sold over 80K F-Series pickups last month, with ATPs higher than ever. Just sayin’.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    “Dual cabs probably don’t…”

    Probably you’re talking out of your A$$.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Sacre Bleu!
    The American Car City dealer in Paris has a 2017 Raptor for..
    122,870 Euros or
    $142,572

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    angry ol grump TT here.

    funny how those euros always had it upon us. we were behind on their love of diesels, now their diesel;s have fallen to ices.
    or how they had such a wonderful immigrant program, now they are chock full of neighborhoods run by islamic law and struggling with extremest.

    they knew how to tax and spend on social causes, now their economies are in free-fall. and there is brexit. italy. greece…all the pigs.

    how the ‘merican was fat and our demand for big cars and pick up trucks made us the joke of the world, now this story.

    sorta like when japan was supposed to crush us only to still be in recession…now its china.

    relax. breath. have a big gulp.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @TT: you do really need to get out more or read some heritage media for your view of Europe is a little warped.

      For example a great many European nations have higher standards of living, greater social mobility, and much less crime than the USA and their economies in many instances are also doing quite well.

      For example there is probably no nation on the world that wouldn’t want Norway’s surplus.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        um..i do get out.
        i’ve traveled the world. my family business was in every country in europe. and all of south america, china and japan.

        but what exactly did i say, however, that you disagree with.

        oh, and europe has the toughest rules about staying…unless you are part of the immigration madness going on now.

        https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/121114/5-hardest-countries-getting-citizenship.asp

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    But… muh boats!

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Driving fullsize pickups may be too much for Europeans get a handle on, let alone understand whole “pickup” concept, but midsize pickups are the “training wheels” for the real thing.

    Six inches bigger in all directions is a small price to pay, for all you get, if *size* is any major concern.
    Just give them time…

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Did some of the posters even take the time to read the article? It refers to European size/mid-size pick-ups not the large ones that inhabit the roads of North America.

    “automakers are scrambling to field European-market pickups.”
    “Europe’s burgeoning love affair with versatile light trucks.”
    “there’s little Detroit presence in the European truck field.”

    Mountain out of a molehill?

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    The state of pickup truckdom in Europe is overstated but there are some. I was in Germany in the summer saw maybe 3 full-size ‘murican’ pickups, big, high end. The sight of these was so shocking that I still remember it.

    My experience with Europeans moving over to NA especially Brits is that they can’t wait to buy their first SUV whereas the European immigrants of decades past very often would stick mostly to European brands primarily German when buying new or used cars.

  • avatar
    fabriced28

    For France at least, pick-up love doesn’t have much to do with their intrinsic qualities. It is simply a regulatory effect. If you want your large family hauler to have an enclosed trunk, it would come with a 1’000 to frequently 10’000 euros tax. If you accept the small drawback of the current crop of pick-ups, this tax doesn’t exist cause it’s a “utility vehicle”.
    It’s basically a loophole just as the CAFE one regarding light trucks, but directly affecting clients.

  • avatar
    DownUnder2014

    In Australia, the pickup truck fever started about 10 years ago…now dual cab versions (HiLux and Ranger in particular, among many other competitors) are literally everywhere.

    It has now become a lot harder to see Single Cabs as a result nowadays (most seem to be bought by fleets).

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