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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Where we live, pickup trucks do work! Pickup trucks in a city, with no "work" to do are ridiculous. And, where they do work, only full size will do. Otherwise, face the fact that they require more fuel.
Overall good article, but you should mention Ford's new global 2013 Ranger midsize pickup that they refuse to bring to the US. It should get around 30MPG by US ratings on a small block diesel power, but Ford claims it is too close in size to the F150 and would confuse buyers. They just don't want it to steal sales from the F-series.
Well I have always owned Ford, and have owned an F-250 super duty, and now drive a Sport Trac, and I just don't need a truck that big. My Father just got an eco boost F150, and it is a great truck, but it is almost as big to drive as my F-250 was, and I just don't need something that huge for what I do. But I don't want to get a traditional SUV, much less one of those glorified mini-van crossover SUV's every company is pushing these days, and like having a bed. I would buy one of the new Ranger's today if Ford would bring it here, but I just don't see getting a new F-150. If I was going to get that I would probably get another F-250 Diesel again instead.
Know where I see most of these locomotive type pinnacles of success sitting...
the parking lot of the grocery store, not the lumber store, or the plumbing
supply store...80 mpg with a carburetor what a laugh... need em to get my
he-man work done... like picking up a quart of milk. Then you'll blame the
pump prices on the govt. that is trying to restrict your right to drive around in
a fuel consuming black hole of a vehicle.
Its the government policymakers that are killing America...
Yep trucks are needed today and in the future...
Still have my used, 91 Chevy 1/2 ton, to make runs to hardware store
move friends furniture, and pull my BBQ pit...
I just cant afford a new one...ha