Europeans Slowly Fall Victim to Pickup Truck Fever

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
europeans slowly fall victim to pickup truck fever

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.

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]

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 45 comments
  • Fabriced28 Fabriced28 on Nov 08, 2017

    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.

  • DownUnder2014 DownUnder2014 on Nov 24, 2017

    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).

  • SilverCoupe I am one of those people whose Venn diagram of interests would include Audis and Formula One.I am not so much into Forums, though. I spend enough time just watching the races.
  • Jeff S Definitely and very soon. Build a hybrid pickup and price it in the Maverick price range. Toyota if they can do this soon could grab the No 1 spot from Maverick.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
  • Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln in 1987 even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs. 1985 was the last year for the rear wheel drive Olds Delta 88 and rear wheel drive Buick Lesabre the rear wheel Caprice and Caprice Classic 3rd generation continued till 1990 when it was redesigned. B Body Buick Estate wagons continued thru 1990 as the Olds Custom Cruiser wagon and both were redesigned. GM held onto a few rear wheel drive full size cars but the Lincoln ad really brought home the similarly looking front wheel drive full size cars. Lincoln's ad was masterful.
  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.
Next