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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What idiots! You think farmer Brown is going to trade his pick up in on a VW for better mileage?
When you go out to feed some hay to your cows in a blizzard, take the Prius!
This is what happens when you let an idiot, who has never been off asphalt, get his hands on a computer.
@Roon J... I've pulled out a number of vehicles with my 4x4 during the snow... Of course some do spin out, but that's because of the fool behind the wheel and would probably happen to them no matter what they drive.
Do you suggest I not drive my truck? What do I carry all of the Boy Scout camping gear in? A Prius?
If you only want a Mini Cooper, or a Fiat please do not hesitate to buy one. That is YOUR choice. Please don't tell me what is good for me and my family.
Trucks will survive no matter what, the way they are powered will change. Don't be surpised if you see half ton trucks with diesel instead of gas powered ones. As far as these people that are so against trucks, you have probably never had the need for one, I know the guys that built the house or apartment you live in had to have a truck to haul materials to location, the guy that plows your driveway when it snows in Michigan has a truck, try doing this with a smartcar. People that are so against trucks are uneducated about them and don't think about all the uses.
If you need a truck, then you will buy a truck.....period. I'm not going to haul my boat with a Camry or an Accord. But I do park my F-350 diesel until the weekend, and drive a more fuel efficient car to work every day. That car is a Corvette Z06 that delivers 28 mpg on the highway, and has 153251 miles on it now. It's the best commuter car I've ever owned, and when it hits 200K, I'll buy another one.