Truck Market: Size Matters!

by : Anthony Fontanelle

Size matters. That is what auto trend is trying to imply. So the bigger a pickup is, the heavier it is, the more gas it guzzles, and the pricier it is, the better it seems to be selling, reported the New York Times.

Demands for the Ford Motor Co.'s F-150 are pouring in. Perhaps, the variant intends to hold onto its long-term title as the best-selling pickup around the globe. General Motors Corp., meanwhile, said that its biggest Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups are among its steadiest sellers. The Toyota Motor Corp., on the other hand, could not make enough of its cavernous Tundra Crew Max. The Chrysler Group said that the Dodge Ram Mega Cab sales are brisk. The pickup market also has welcomed one promising competitor - the Nissan Motor Co. has just rushed a long-bed version of its full-size Titan.

Amid the escalating gas prices, it seems that pickup shoppers do not care a bit whether they are purchasing gas-guzzlers. Obviously, gasoline price is not a big issue in the segment.

"There apparently are a lot of people out there who can afford them," George Pipas, a sales analyst for Ford, said in a phone interview Friday. "And that's what they want." Pipas said that Ford conducted research into what was driving the pickup market. They found shoppers want maximum luxury, V-8 power, and uncompromised utility.

But truck sales are expected to drop. Sales of Ford's F-150 are predicted to decrease by approximately ten percent from the 800,000 or so sold in the previous year. The peak record for the pickup was in 2004 when the Dearborn automaker sold 940,000 F-150s.

Pipas feels the slowdown in regular-cab and extended-cab sales is a reflection of the slowdown in the construction industry, The Times continued. "Right now is a difficult market for full-size trucks what with residential construction weak," he said. "The segment is very much dependent on the growth in construction spending."

GM reported halfway through 2007 that it had an inventory backlog of some 700,000 unsold trucks. The may find this fact a bit frustrating. An uneven number of those seem to be the regular-cab and extended-cab pickups, and not crew cabs. "The crew-cab models continue to grow when compared to extended-cab and regular-cab models," Chevrolet spokesman Brian Goebel, wrote in an e-mail.

Dodge does not seem to be a solid hit like Ford and GM, but the growth in the company's truck sales is also at the high end. "Four-door models are the fastest-growing and highest-volume part of the light-duty pickup segment and account for about 45 percent of all light-duty pickup purchases," Dodge spokesman Dan Bodene said. "And you're also correct that the trend over the past several years has been growing popularity of trucks that offer more and more amenities along with capability."

Toyota, attempting to gain traction in the full-size pickup market, launched its much larger Tundra, originally projected 200,000 units for first-year sales. Toyota said that it was shocked to find that sales of the CrewMax were "way beyond expectations." It means no incentives are necessary to bolster sales of the pickup. As such, production at Toyota's new San Antonio, Tex., plant was shifted away from the smallest regular-cab models to more CrewMax models.

Nissan, consequently, realized that it was missing an important party hence the launched the 2008 Titan 4×4 LE, with a "7-foot-3-inch bed - best in class."

Ford, Chevrolet, GMC and Dodge all offer larger heavy-duty trucks that, while they sell in smaller volumes, do more and cost more. They also sell well, regardless of fuel prices, concluded the report. And these pickups have established a cult following.