Will the pickup truck survive?
High fuel prices and political pressure for higher efficiency ratings have cast a dark shadow on the future of the pickup. Fortunately, it definitely still has a future.
With gas prices on the rise again and government policymakers pushing harder than ever for a 54.5 mpg corporate average fuel-economy (CAFE) standard by 2025, the future of the pickup truck has come into question. Is there any hope for something as thirsty as the pickup? What will one look like in 13 years?
The short answer: You bet there's a future. As long as farmers and construction workers need to carry big stuff around this big country to keep it healthy and evolving, there will be pickup trucks.
What will a pickup look like in a decade or so? That's a harder question to answer. Pickups will always have a bed for cargo and a cab for driver and passengers. Past those givens, it's almost anyone's guess. However, some trends are emerging that give us "seasoned pros" some insight.
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The Big Truck Peak
First you have to look at what is happening now to see where we might be going tomorrow.
Today, the pickup sits atop an apex of power and capacity. For years, the trend was to build ever larger, more powerful trucks, culminating in today's locomotive-like Heavy- or Super-Duty models of the Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram and Ford F-Series. The same can be said of full-size trucks.
When the economy was roaring, these beasts were the macho pinnacle of personal-use transport. Powered by V8 turbodiesel engines with up to 800 lb-ft of torque, these bruisers can carry more than 7,000 pounds or tow well over 20,000 pounds. While capable of mileage figures upward of 25 mpg under good conditions, they still typically return sub-20 mpg averages in the hustle of daily use.
During the same time, compact trucks all but disappeared. Simple economics played the major role in downplaying compact trucks. Given second-hand treatment by automakers because their larger trucks were more profitable, the small pickups weren't updated, and they couldn't compete with full-size pickups in terms of features, capability or even fuel efficiency.
Furthermore, other vehicle types, such as small SUVs, pecked away at the compact pickup's once-powerful status as the rugged individualist's fiscally conservative daily transport. Ultimately, such factors killed Ford's Ranger compact pickup last year and the first-generation Chevrolet Colorado this year, and have left the Dodge Dakota and Nissan Frontier unchanged for years.
Now in the era of fiscal conservatism — that is, making ends meet now matters more than how big your engine is — the big beasts are becoming less attractive.
Big rigs aren't going away, per se. They simply won't be bought in volume anymore by suburbanites looking for a good time. Instead, the weekend hauling jobs will increasingly go to the standard full-size pickups with their ever more powerful and fuel-efficient powertrains.
Ford has led the way in this transition with the unexpectedly popular pairing of its F-150 and the brand-new 365-horsepower EcoBoost V6 engine. Blessed with a gutsy 420 lb-ft of torque and an 11,500-pound towing rating, the EcoBoost F-150 can get mid-20s fuel economy in runabout mode. That's a full-size truck that can be lived with daily, yet has the beans to tote or haul the fun stuff to the lake, desert or mountains on weekends.
Chevrolet promised to up the full-size ante with its recent announcement of a next-generation small-block V8 engine with direct fuel injection. Rumor has it the new Chevy V8 will downsize to 5.5 liters and deliver more than 400 horsepower at less cost than Ford's EcoBoost twin-turbo arrangement.
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My Ram has the "short " 6 ft.bed,its hauled plenty of stuff including a riding mower, loads of dirt,tools etc. It also fits in my garage,I don't need a Nimitz class carrier to get the job done...
I have a 2003 ford sport trac pick up, i just used it to get free mulch at the recycle center and i use it for groceries and other heavy items moved furniture and helped other people, i love this truck and its fully loaded, dvd in back cd, connections for gps and to charge my phone in case of emergency i feel very safe as it rides high up so i see better than people with cars. Yes gas is high but i know it will go down soon as the economy changes, Ford trucks are the best built and i will always have a pick-up it's saves me money i don't have to rent a moving van, and i can help some one in need!
" My truck is bigger and better than yours"
Many guys who own these huge - fancy - trucks have absolutely no use for them - macho image is all that counts for these guys.
Many probably remember when a true "work truck" wasn't some fancy - decked out toy. Truck makers need to go back to the "just plain Jane" WORK TRUCK - then let us all see how many truly want (or need) a REAL WORK TRUCK.
These trucks will be cheaper and more fuel and maintenance efficient. In the long run would save those who really use a truck for work - a lot of money. They wouldn't be a "pretty" - but then "real men" need a "real" work truck.
This article make me think of some of the astonishing photos that I have seen over the years of folks in many Asian countries who carry some of the most outlandishly prodigious loads on bicycles and three wheeled motor scooters. Some even move huge loads with nothing more than push carts. That may be our future if the current corporate nabobs continue to rule our country. Time to finally tell them to put a sock in it and finish developing the turbine-electric car and truck.
The pure turbine version was right on the edge of production in the early 1960s before big oil and the other competitive automakers put the kabosh on it. Then Andy Granitelli tried to revive it for racing in the 1970s and USAC and NASCAR banned them for supposed safety reasons. Said they were just dangerous fast. However everyone just tells me that I am nuts and a conspiracy theorist. Perhaps but I rode in one of the prototypes and it was really a neat vehicle. Made the movie Batmobile seem a reality. LOL Also I lived in INDY when the turbine made its debut at the Speedway there and watched it make its preliminary test runs. It was really fast and freaky quiet. HEH HEH HEH HEH
The best "suburban pickup" was the El Camino. It was commuter sized, could go to the garden store, and with a canopy or a pop-up trailer was a camping machine. Then you jumped to a real pickup that was used as a tool to get work done. There were two clear cut categories and specific set of required driving skills for each. Not this SUV, hybrid car-truck thing that is going on now. I see some scary things when people try to drive a 3/4 ton like a subaru!
Mostly I have only had one vehicle, and due to work and lifestyle choices it was a diesel crew cab long bed. It could tow, move my stuff, carry lots of friends and the big bench backseat was great to sleep on. Got a lot of crap from greenies when I lived in Portland - but the rig got great mileage, was paid for and did everything that I asked - and with high clearance and studs all the way around it went a lot of places. West of Mississippi there is another county where pickups are the safest choice and a way of life and a critical part of the economy. People in the other parts of the country need to understand that work trucks (tools) and diesel fuel the economy and are what fills the shelves in Safeway. Its not a selfish "un-green" lifestyle choice.
the colorado killed the colorado, ugly killed the dakota, the ranger was thrown out stale.
Corporate indifference killed the small truck which grew to mid-size, many people were buying 'small'
trucks in the day.
A truck should be a truck, not an SUV with a trash bin on the back. Unless you really work a crew, you don't need a "crew cab." If your vehicle doesn't have an 8' (or longer) bed or a fifth-wheel, it isn't a real truck. The concept of adding an under-size back seat to a truck, and taking that space out of the bed volume, is asinine. If a vehicle won't haul anything but kitty-litter, it isn't a legitimate truck. If you don't need a real truck, get a fuel-efficient automobile and quit playing cowboy.