By on April 6, 2020

With some analysts now estimating the coronavirus outbreak’s cost to the automotive industry at as much as $100 billion, there’s not much reason to hope for any vehicle segment to trend in any direction but downward. However, domestic pickup sales have surprised us.

Despite the industry taking it on the chin overall, domestic truck sales are actually improving in the United States — at least by the measure with which we gauge domestic sales performance. Seeing the writing on the wall last month, domestic nameplates began incentivizing product like wild. Apparently, bargains ride two-up with the lead horseman of Pestilence. That, in combination with southern states being slower to enact social distancing measures, helped prop up truck sales. While that may result in the region having a longer recovery, it seems to have padded the market’s fall ever so slightly.  (Read More…)

By on February 3, 2020

Emojis have taken on a bizarre level of importance within the automotive industry. Last October, Jeep complained about how the symbol used for its name on iOS devices didn’t accurately represent the brand — and it was only a few months earlier that Ford was busy teasing the pickup emoji it had pending with the Unicode Consortium. There’s marketing potential here, and everyone wants to see it work to their benefit.

While Jeep convinced Apple to disassociate the Jeep name from the generic crossover emoji, Ford’s progress has been harder to measure. The automaker’s product communications lead, Mike Levine, tweeted the symbol’s arrival late last week, but it didn’t much resemble the emoji Ford submitted. People noticed. Instead of a simplified F-Series in blue, the Unicode Consortium opted for a red truck straight out of a children’s book.

It also didn’t escape the notice of General Motors, which quickly decided to use the opportunity to kick Ford while it was down.  (Read More…)

By on October 15, 2019

No one really expected electric pickup trucks to take off as a concept, save for the people developing them. While EVs still need to improve their maximum range to truly surpass combustion-reliant vehicles, modern examples perform much better than their predecessors. But battery size and vehicle weight remain important issues for the segment, making the idea of an electric work vehicle seem about as useful as an edible diaper.

Then the concepts started arriving, sucking far less than most of us expected. There were loads of new ideas, like interesting storage solutions and auxiliary power ports for tools — all stemming from electrification. What’s more is that the vehicle itself seems like it could benefit from the instant torque and lower center of gravity furnished by electric powertrains. Battery packs can also be made larger (improving range), as pickups have more areas to stash cells without intruding into the passenger compartment. Maybe this wasn’t a dumb idea after all.

Ford and General Motors have both confirmed the development of electric pickups, with the former currently running prototypes. Meanwhile, Rivian and Bollinger have already shown off their designs. EV darling Tesla had a truck it wanted to debut over the summer, but the model saw its release pushed back. Now, CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that the vehicle will emerge next month.  (Read More…)

By on July 16, 2019

Ford was teasing a new pickup truck on Tuesday. No, it’s not the Bronco-based one we mentioned earlier in the day. This one is small, really small.

According to Ford’s product communications manager, Mike Levine, more details on this in-development vehicle will emerge later this week. But we already know what it is — an emoji.  (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2019

It seemed like it’s been ages since Hyundai showed off the Santa Cruz concept at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. Since then, people have been begging for the company to build it. While firm details of when it’ll go into production aren’t available, the company has been vocal about wanting to build it and the challenges that it would face.  (Read More…)

By on June 10, 2019

1996 Isuzu Hombre in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome of the most interesting examples of GM badge engineering during the last few decades involved the Isuzu brand; first, the Chevrolet LUV pickup (Isuzu Faster) arrived during the late 1970s, followed by the Chevrolet/Geo Spectrum (Isuzu Gemini) and Geo Storm (Isuzu Impulse), and finally the Trailblazer-based Isuzu Ascender. Mixed in there was the Isuzu-ized second-gen Chevy S-10, also known as the Hombre.

You won’t find many Hombres in your local wrecking yard, but I kept my eyes open for one until this ’96 showed up in Denver. (Read More…)

By on April 23, 2019

2019 Ford Ranger front quarter

You know you’re getting old when you start using phrases like “back in my day” on the regular. Indeed, as I’m rounding my fortieth lap of the sun, I find myself reminiscing entirely too much. And, considering this tidy second career I’ve picked out, it’s not surprising that my daydreams revert all too often to vehicles of my youth.

Back in my day (there it is) compact pickup trucks were everywhere. Every mainstream automaker had one – occasionally, it was a rebadged import, but it was an important segment in which to compete. The Ranger was just another player in a crowded marketplace.

These days, the compact pickup doesn’t exist in North America. The midsize truck is the new hotness, but even this segment is relatively immature. Ford looked at its overseas portfolio and saw a model that could readily be adapted – thus, the 2019 Ford Ranger seen here. Is the Ranger competitive with the stalwarts, or is it a matter of too midsize, too late?

(Read More…)

By on November 26, 2018

1984 Dodge Ram pickup in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsCan you imagine buying a new full-size Detroit pickup truck with the top luxury trim package and less than 100 horsepower? In 2018, such a truck would be smashed to bits by angry mobs, were it to appear in a showroom, but this half-ton pickup with 95 Slant-Six horses, four-on-the-floor manual transmission, and the Royal SE package would have been considered pretty nice, 34 years back. (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2018

2019 Ram 1500

We’ve all taken a few chances in our lives. Whether it was jumping off the roof of a shed as a youngster or accepting that new job in a different town as an adult, most of us find there is very little reward without some risk.

Some 25 years ago, two brothers in our rural fishing community built a new vessel which explored the edges of legal length at the time, banking on future changes to regulations allowing them to use such a big boat in their type of fishery. The brothers, naturally, christened the boat Takin’ Chances, because if their gamble didn’t pay off, they’d be out a significant investment. Guess what? They gambled correctly and, with regulations changed in their favor, Randy and Ross went on to enjoy a great deal of success.

For 2019, Ram is also taking a few chances. With the deep-sixing of the truck’s mini-Kenworth styling and signature gunsight grille, the company has crafted a pickup that is arguably its biggest gamble since 1994.

(Read More…)

By on December 27, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71, Image: General Motors

“You are too much the artiste, Herr Case.” Ratz grunted; the sound served him as laughter. He scratched his overhang of white-shirted belly with the pink claw. “You are the artiste of the slightly funny deal.”

— William Gibson, Neuromancer

If you hang around the Detroit auto market long enough, you will hear about the slightly funny deals out there. Some GM store is trying to clear out some inventory so they’ll stack a bunch of incentives, play a little fast n’ loose with some eligibility, and shuck out a bunch of vehicles to friends and family at… how does $129 a month strike you? $79? What about $49 a month?

The deals are out there. I used to roll with a group of Pakistanis who would stuff their driveways with oddballs like $132/month Durangos, all leased to quick-bake LLCs for one-off passports generated by friends in the government back home. When I expressed a desire to borrow a vehicle for a weekend’s worth of towing, I was sent home with a new Jeep Commander Limited and strict instructions to bring it back in six months or so.

If you’re able to move fast and you’re not too picky, you can get some amazing stuff. The question is: should you bother?

(Read More…)

By on October 4, 2017

2018 Nissan Frontier

“Hang on a second,” you shout, hurling canned food and stale eclairs in my general direction. “Didn’t this series already cover the Frontier?” Yes, dear reader, it did… for the 2017 model year.

There used to be a Chinese buffet restaurant in the capital city of Newfoundland famous for offering meh options at midday, only to trot out much better versions of the same dishes in the evening. They charged a little bit more after sundown, naturally, but not that much more.

It appears the Nissan product team has been eating at the Golden Phoenix on Kenmount Road, then.

(Read More…)

By on April 26, 2017

1968 VW Type II Transporter, Image: © 2017 Forest Casey

Pickup trucks are a stereotypically American product, right up there with blue jeans and barbeque. The best-selling vehicle in America for the past 35 years? Ford F-Series. And the pickup truck defines our needs as a nation, maximizing towing, luggage, and passenger capacities as much as possible at the lowest possible price.

But must a pickup wear an American badge for us to consider it a proper truck?

After seeing innovative trucks like this 1968 VW Type II Transporter, you can’t help but ask, “Why must these be so rare in America?”

(Read More…)

By on April 5, 2017

2017 Nissan Frontier S

There’s something innately endearing about a small pickup truck. Like an overeager puppy who yaps and seems to bounce instead of walk, fun-sized pick-‘em-ups just appear to be excited all the time. Come on! Come on! Let’s work! Let’s play! Are you ready? Can we play? Huh? Huh? Are you ready? How about now? To me, that’s the soundtrack of a small truck.

Nissan has been a large player in the small truck market ever since Methuselah was a boy, with the Hardbody (what a great name for a truck, by the way) finding itself on the nation’s gravel roads in a whole bunch of trims. In the Great White North, they even used the fantastic Hustler name. Hardbody Hustler. Tremendous.

(Read More…)

By on February 9, 2017

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been on a bit of a mental streak lately.

Rip the seats out of a Hellcat to create the Demon? Sure!

Drop a V8 engine the size of a grand piano into a Durango and perform all-wheel drive burnouts? Why not?

The level of brash, automotive lunacy on offer from Auburn Hills is appalling. I think it’s great.

It’s no surprise, then, Ram chose to amp up the capability and in-your-face style of its Power Wagon when it came time for a refresh. Big tires, bold grilles, and billboard-sized badges; customers in the market for a Power Wagon are not generally a bunch of wallflowers.

(Read More…)

By on November 16, 2016

Mercedes-Benz Concept X-CLASS

Mercedes-Benz has decided against bringing its X-Class pickup to the U.S. market next year. However, this doesn’t mean we won’t eventually see the luxury truck hauling grand pianos and crystal chandeliers down American highways.

(Read More…)

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