America loves trucks
A guide to the modern pickup
2012 Ford F-150 XLT
America loves the pickup truck. Want proof? Let's examine the facts. The Ford F-Series is not only the best-selling vehicle in America, but has been for 35 years. And while there are only six full-size light-duty and three heavy-duty pickups on the market, those nine vehicles account for 11 percent of all automobile sales in the United States. That's especially impressive when you consider that more than 200 models account for the other 89 percent.
To get a bead on the pickup's appeal, we talked to two people who study the pickup market: Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at the research firm AutoPacific, and Marc Lapine, consumer marketing manager for the Ford F-Series.
So, what does America love about the pickup? Is it the capability, the brawn, the possibility of adventure? Well, it's all of the above, and more. "They are so functional and adaptable," Kim says. "The fact that it has an empty pickup bed makes it a kind of blank canvas, which can perform any kind of task." Lapine agrees: "We look at trucks as an enabler. It allows you to do things you really can't do with other vehicles."
There's a more practical reason, too. "The pickup truck is very much a part of Americana," Kim says. "It's connected with the idea of a man going out to work hard and create his own path. The truck is a tool to do that." To that end, many pickups are sold to fleets, and quite a few others go to individual contractors who need them to do their jobs.
The pickup truck is also a tool for play. The bed can haul fishing, hunting and camping equipment; available four-wheel drive allows the truck to go anywhere; and the trailer hitch lets owners tow their toys.
Some folks also choose pickups for everyday transportation, even if they don't use them for work or hobbies. Lapine says these buyers want the option of that capability, and may aspire to be more serious users.
No matter how you want to use your pickup, the 2012 model-year lineup offers something for everyone. Here, we break down seven aspects of the modern pickup you should consider when making a purchase. Think of it as a handy guide to the modern pickup.
Configure to Taste
Every light-duty pickup is offered with three cabin sizes and three bed lengths, and buyers configure their trucks for their needs. There's the regular cab (two to three passengers); the extended cab, with rear doors that open at the front (five to six passengers); and the crew cab, with four standard doors (five to six passengers). Bed lengths vary slightly, but most brands offer lengths of roughly 5.5 feet, 6.5 feet and 8.0 feet. While a contractor might choose a barebones regular cab with a long bed, a family that competes in equestrian competitions will likely get a crew cab with a short bed, primarily using the pickup to tow a horse trailer. Opt for the configuration that fits your needs.
Towing and Hauling Capability
For owners of full-size pickups, towing and payload capacity are the stuff of bragging rights. Among light-duty trucks, Ford tops the list, with a maximum payload of 2,080 pounds (3,060 pounds with a heavy-duty payload package) and a top towing capacity of 11,500 pounds. Chevrolet is next with a maximum payload of 1,937 pounds and 10,700 pounds of maximum towing capacity. Ram's best numbers are 1,860 and 10,450; Toyota's are 2,090 and 10,400; and Nissan's are 2,053 and 9,500. The heavy-duty pickups can increase payload to more than 7,200 pounds and towing capacity to 18,000 pounds (23,000 with a fifth wheel), while the compact pickups can handle under 1,500 pounds of payload and tow up to 6,500 pounds. If capability is your main concern, do your research and choose the truck that meets your needs.
Skilled laborers of all types don't just want pickups, they need them to make a living. They work them hard and expect them to deliver the power, capability and space to get the job done. Whether the trucks are bought by fleet managers concerned with the bottom line or contractors just trying to get by, luxury amenities can cost too much and hinder the job. Therefore, work trucks often have vinyl floors and upholstery, regular-size cabs and longer beds. They must balance price and capability. We like the $22,340 Ram 1500 Tradesman, which comes with the powerful Hemi V8 engine. Other models to consider are the $23,715 Chevrolet Silverado WT with the 5.3-liter V8, and the $23,990 Ford F-150 XL with the 5.0-liter V8.
Well-heeled buyers who want to combine comfort with capability and use their trucks as everyday transportation are likely to consider luxury models. These trucks tend to be crew cabs with shorter beds so they can carry people as well as stuff. Inside, they are loaded with amenities such as leather upholstery, navigation systems, heated and cooled seats, high-end audio systems, and even heated steering wheels and retractable running boards. It seems like new models are popping up every year. Some have a Southwestern theme, with saddlelike leather upholstery emblazoned with laser-etched filigrees. The $43,125 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn and $42,750 Ford F-150 King Ranch are examples of this type of truck. Other high-end luxury pickups include the $45,460 GMC Sierra Denali and the $44,525 Ford F-150 Platinum.
Beyond the luxury trucks are the special-edition models. They can have tie-ins with complementary brands, be optimized for off-roading, or feature equipment and styling for an outsdoorsy lifestyle. No matter their purpose, they all have personality. Ford offers the $48,995 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson and the $42,725 F-150 SVT Raptor. The Raptor is a high-performance off-road beast, while the Harley-Davidson model boasts even higher levels of luxury than Ford's F-150 Platinum. Ram says that 62 percent of full-size truck owners hunt, fish or camp, so it offers the Outdoorsman with a towing package, extra lighting inside and out, all-terrain tires and skid plates. Ram's Mossy Oak edition cross-promotes the camouflage-apparel brand of the same name. Trucks that feature a Texas theme include the Ram Lone Star package and the Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet Silverado Texas edition.
Focus on Fuel Economy
Trucks are among the thirstiest vehicles on the road. That will become a problem as the 2016 and 2025 fuel-economy regulations arrive. While the best pickup fuel economy belongs to the 4-cylinder midsize Toyota Tacoma (21 mpg city/25 highway), several fuel-economy improvements have been made in full-size pickups. General Motors offers the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra hybrids with Environmental Protection Agency ratings as high as 20 mpg city/23 highway. In 2011, Ford introduced an all-new engine lineup with more power and improved fuel economy, the highlight being the 365-horsepower EcoBoost V6 engine with its 16 city/22 highway rating. Ram has had its Multi-Displacement System in the Hemi V8 for years, and for 2013 it is adding a 3.6-liter V6, an 8-speed automatic transmission and start-stop technology, all of which are promised to deliver best-in-class fuel economy.
Helpful Tech Features
Physical equipment isn't the only thing that can make the job easier. Tech features can do the same. They can be as simple as a navigation system to get you to the next jobsite or a rearview camera with a hitch view. We're more impressed, however, by two features from Ford. The Productivity Screen is a trip computer that also provides valuable information for off-roaders and owners who tow. Off-roaders will like the information on pitch, steering and roll angles, and four-wheel-drive power distribution. Towers will be able to name their trailers, track mileage with those trailers, store gain settings for the trailer brake controller, and access a towing checklist. Also offered is Ford Work Solutions, which can keep track of the trucks in a fleet and secure equipment in the bed with a cable lock.
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.
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@ Tony Lee- People that drive trucks are not below you by any means. It's funny to read posts from city boys like you that say things bashing real working folks that are no doubt 10 times the man you are. Here's a piece of advise: Keep posting online in the privacy of your mom's basement - if you spoke like that to those you refer to as "lowly" and " uneducated" you would get your tail kicked in.
So many whiners here....If you don't need a treck don't get one. Please don't assume your needs also suit others. We live out in the country and use trucks for work. How else can someone tote a 7000 pound tractor around? Little cars don't work for everyone! That said, when I am not using my 2011 Silverado diesel for work I have a 2011 Cruze.
It's about control, the people that wrote this article want us to drive battery powered cars or the lesser hybrids it like that's going to fix the world, you people that want to drive a Leaf or Puris just take yourself out and purchase 1....leave the rest of us alone!
I am a woman and own a truck. I love it. I haven't owned a car in years. It gets me where I want to go no matter what the weather and hauls anything I want. I always am hauling something be it groceries, dirt, manure,plants,rocks, bricks or just plain moving. My truck gets the job done. And when I'm not in my truck I am on my motorcycle feelin' the wind in my face.