Blatant Truism: Americans and Automakers Still Love the Pickup Truck

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

In case you’ve just exited a 60-year coma or immigrated to this country without any prior knowledge of it, Americans have a fondness for pickup trucks. So do automotive manufacturers. Last month, the average selling price for full-size pickups was $47,393. For General Motors, that translates to about $11,000 in profit for each truck sold — but the ceiling is even higher. Two years ago, Ford was rumored to be making $13,000 on each F-Series sold and its domestic competitors weren’t far behind.

Meanwhile, the average haul for an SUV or crossover isn’t likely to surpass $2,000 on its very best days and car profitability is typically even lower ( unless you’re Porsche). That’s why “Truck Month” seems to take place five times a year. It’s also why domestic manufactures are going to ensure pickups “dominate” the 2018 North American International Auto Show. Of course, was there ever a year when Detroit’s automotive trade show wasn’t at least partially overrun with trucks?

Excluding those years where gas was expensive and jobs were scarce, pickup sales have been exceptionally strong in the 21st century. This has resulted in loads of special editions, new trim levels, and options — all of which help automakers rake in the dough. “Short of an oil shock, and that would mean an international crisis of some kind, I don’t see any dark clouds on the horizon for these trucks,” Jerry Hirsch, editor at Trucks.com told the Detroit Free Press in a recent interview.

While domestic truck sales are getting awfully close to their pre-recession recession peak, there’s no reason to assume the bubble will suddenly burst without some kind of external influence. Nobody in 2007 suddenly despised pickups, they just didn’t want to be the one to fuel them when gasoline suddenly became a luxury item. So, with fuel looking to stay relatively flat for the near future, America’s truck makers are preparing to dazzle the crowds at NAIAS.

While General Motors is rumored to offer the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado with a carbon-fiber bed, and recently air-dropped the tough-looking Trail Boss to celebrate 100 years of GM trucks, it has promised to bring something special to Detroit next month. Fiat Chrysler has been much more secretive with its next-generation Ram 1500. However, eagle-eyed enthusiasts noticed test platforms using a split, dual-function tailgate that can be operated remotely, plus newly aerodynamic bodywork.

“We’re going to focus on the things that we do, I think, well, and that is to build really capable, excellent trucks. We’re going to continue to grow our brand. We are fortunate enough to continue to grow the loyalty to the brand, which is very important in the commercial world and the new light duty will just build on all those elements,” Mike Manley, who heads Ram for FCA, said at the LA Auto Show. “We’re going to have a very, very compelling offer.”

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • AndyYS AndyYS on Dec 18, 2017

    My brother-in-law has a 4 door F150. Very comfortable and great visibility for the driver. Convenient if you have to haul things. But he never uses it in situations where he'd have to park in a crowded parking lot or on the street. I live in the suburbs and don't haul things so I can't see the logic of spending big bucks for one.

  • CombiCoupe99 CombiCoupe99 on Dec 18, 2017

    No small truck in America. Not because they don't have a market, certainly they'll take that $13,000 profit over less profit - even it means SCREWING a large percentage of the country who can step into a F150 with 125,000 miles. If ANY world manufacturer wants to break into the US market - give us a small truck again. You'll be the Honda of the 70s and 80s.

    • See 9 previous
    • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Dec 24, 2017

      @krhodes1 Of course. I can afford to drive whatever I damned well please. But inefficiency does not please me unless there is a really good reason for it. Speed is not enough of a reason. I put up with the Rover because nothing else that can do what it does is much better. My problem, albiet a very first world one, is that I can afford any reasonable new car I care to buy - let's say up to $100K (not that I would ever spend that much). But there is just about nothing that I care to buy. I don't have garage space in FL for toys yet. But I will, and I am sure there will be some interesting older additions to the fleet. I like fully depreciated vehicles too. I like it even better when I am the one to do ALL the depreciating. But it isn't a hard requirement either way.

  • El scotto I look forward to watching MTG and Tommy Tuberville when the UAW comes to their states.
  • El scotto Vehicle company white collar (non-union) engineers design the parts and assembly procedures. The UAW members are instructed on how to install the parts. Engineers are also in charge of quality control. The executives are ulimately responible for the quality of their products.
  • Chris P Bacon I don't care either way, the employees have the right to organize, and I'm never going to buy a VW. But.... It would be interesting if the media (HINT HINT) would be able to provide a detailed look at what (if anything) the VW workers gain by unionizing. There will be dues to pay. How much? I bet the current policies, pay and benefits mirror other auto companies. When all is said and done an the first contract signed, my money is on the UAW to be he only ones who really come out ahead. That leads into my next comment. Once a union is voted onto the property, it is almost impossible to get rid of them. Even if the membership feels the union doesn't have their best interests in mind, the hurdles to get rid of them are too high. There were a lot of promises made by the UAW, even if they don't deliver, they'll be in Chattanooga even if the membership decides they made a mistake.
  • 1995 SC How bout those steel tariffs. Wonder if everyone falls into the same camp with respect to supporting/opposing them as they did on the auto tariffs a few weeks ago. Doubt it. Wonder Why that would be?
  • Lorenzo Nice going! They eliminated the "5" numbers on the speedometer so they could get it to read up to 180 mph. The speed limit is 65? You have to guess one quarter of the needle distance between 60 and 80. Virtually every state has 55, 65, and 75 mph speed limits, not to mention urban areas where 25, 35, and 45 mph limits are common. All that guesswork to display a maximum speed the driver will never reach.
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