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.
Bing Images: Super Duty Trucks
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.
Find new and used cars with the new MSN Autos mobile app, available on multiple platforms.
Must-See on MSN
I bought a 1997 Ford Ranger it had the option for a V6 and an automatic transmission, but I chose the 4 cylinder 5 speed manual and I don't regret the choice. I still own and drive that truck today. I use it to haul building supplies, big purchases, and take the trash to the landfill. I also use to go fishing on some roads where I would not take my car. All I need is a winch and I'm good to go. The truck gets similar mileage as my V6 02 Buick on the highway and better mileage in the city than than car by four miles per gallon
I don't see any replacements I can use out there for the Ranger ye when I go to replace it, so I'll wait longer to see what will be offered.
Do you think our Government want us to convert our autos?
Strict U.S. EPA rules cover the manufacture, sale, and installation of alternative fuel conversion systems. Even more stringent California Air Resources Board (CARB) rules apply in California and other states that have adopted these rules. These regulations do not allow consumers to install retrofit kits themselves. EPA considers non-certified installations as representing "tampering with a federally approved emission control system," an act punishable by a substantial fine.
Plus, EPA and CARB certified engine conversion systems are not sold to untrained or unapproved installers. There are only four SVM (Small Volume Manufacturers) of retrofit systems offering EPA certified systems - BAF Technologies, Baytech Corp., FuelTek Conversion Corp., and Impco Technologies - and only two of these are CARB certified. See www.ngvamerica.org/pdfs/marketplace/mp.analyses.ngvs-a.pdf for a listing of light duty conversions.
Honda GX starts at $24,590 and is eligible for a $4,000 federal tax credit. It compares feature-wise to a midlevel, gasoline-powered $17,760 Civic LX. The 2007 natural-gas GX is government rated at 28 miles a gallon in the city, 39 on the highway.
The Volt by GM $ 39,000
Just what is so new on this?
Back in the 1950, farmers would install a large tank in the back of their pick-up and use natural gas.
A natural gas vehicle or NGV is an alternative fuel vehicle that uses compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a clean alternative to other fossil fuels. Worldwide, there were 12.7 million natural gas vehicles by 2010, led by Pakistan with 2.7 million, Iran (1.95 million), Argentina (1.9 million), Brazil (1.7 million), and India (1.1 million). The Asia-Pacific region leads the world with 6.8 million NGVs, followed by Latin America with 4.2 million vehicles. In the Latin American region almost 90% of NGVs have bi-fuel engines, allowing these vehicles to run on either gasoline or CNG.. In Pakistan, almost every vehicle converted to (or manufactured for) alternative fuel use typically retains the capability to run on ordinary gasoline (or diesel).