Need a pickup truck? Nah, not really

Discussion in 'American Cars' started by CitroenSM, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. Quote from;

    Need a pickup truck? Nah, not really

    Personal-use buyers flee, but business users should return

    Dave Guilford
    Automotive News
    November 30, 2009 - 12:01 am ET

    If you want to know where more than 150,000 annual pickup sales went, picture a certain buyer.

    This consumer -- probably a guy, so let's call him "he" -- owns a full-sized crew cab pickup. He uses it for daily driving, like commuting and family-hauling.

    He likes the down-to-earth truck styling and high seating position. The cushy interior and sound system are pretty nice, too. But gasoline prices are pinching him.

    He keeps thinking he might need the pickup to move a couch someday. But in fact he rarely, if ever, pulls a heavy trailer or loads the bed with bulky cargo.

    And his next vehicle won't be a pickup.

    Our guy is the personal-use owner, sometimes called an urban cowboy or an image buyer. As recently as 2005, these buyers pumped up U.S. sales of highly profitable full-sized pickups to nearly 2.5 million units. Sales had been over 2 million for every year this decade.

    While the big-pickup segment has crashed by more than half since 2005 -- sales of just over 1 million are likely this year -- automakers and analysts expect buyers who use trucks in their work to return.

    But the urban cowboy is fading away, say segment leaders Ford and GM.

    And although they weren't the biggest chunk of full-sized pickup buyers, image buyers helped automakers expand their pickup lineups with high-end vehicles that generated healthy margins. Top-end Platinum and Harley-Davidson F-150 Crew Cabs, for instance, sticker for more than $45,000, while base F-150 work trucks start in the low $20,000s.

    The market looked so lucrative that Toyota and Nissan made plays to grab traditional Detroit 3 pickup buyers -- although those moves haven't gone well. Through October, the Detroit automakers still claimed more than 90 percent of the buyers of full-sized pickups.

    But even if the segment recovers, automakers probably won't regain the past volume of personal-use buyers. Automakers say most urban cowboys are switching to cars and crossovers. Fuel economy is the main motive.

    "It's those folks that say, 'I neither tow nor haul' that have left the segment," says John Schwegman, Chevrolet director of truck product marketing.

    Big rise, big fall

    Ford and GM agree that personal-use buyers are declining, although they count them differently.

    GM's Schwegman says that in 2005, buyers who chose pickups "primarily for image" accounted for 200,000 to 250,000 annual sales. That fell to about 100,000 in 2008. This year, he says, only about 50,000 personal-use buyers will drive home full-sized pickups.

    Ford Motor Co. says the number of industrywide personal-use buyers dropped by nearly 190,000 from 2003 to 2008. Ford has higher estimates of total personal-use buyers, saying they were 20 percent of the segment -- or about 455,000 buyers -- in 2003.

    Both Chevy's Schwegman and Doug Scott, Ford Motor Co. truck group marketing manager, forecast the segment at 1.0 million to 1.2 million units this year -- fewer than half of the mid-decade glory years.

    Work trucks off, too

    Obviously, personal-use buyers aren't the only missing customers. Paul Haelterman, vice president of global advisory services at CSM Worldwide, says the construction industry slump took a big bite out of the segment: "Frankly, the entire construction business has been devastated over the last year or two, and those are the guys who are going to buy new pickups," Haelterman says.

    But there's a key difference. Automakers are confident that their core buyers will return as the economy revives. Says Ford's Scott: "There isn't an alternative that can do the job that full-sized pickups can."

    Personal-use buyers are another story, he says. "Those people are not coming back to the full-sized pickup arena at the same rate."

    'Core truckers'

    Michael Robinet, vice president of global vehicle forecasts at CSM, agrees the personal-use market will not come back to what it was. So how do automakers deal with the loss of so many buyers?

    Basically they are doing two things: doubling down on the core buyers by adding capability and doing all they can to improve fuel economy.

    Schwegman says GM is promoting such features as variable valve timing and six-speed transmissions, standard in 2010 models. He cautions that automakers cannot return to the Spartan work trucks of the past or lengthen product cycles.

    Rural dealers tell GM that their best buyers want a truck that "looks good and works hard. They want to wash it off and drive it to dinner or to the country club."

    The Ford F-150 introduced last year focused on "core truckers," Scott says, adding practical features such as a SuperCrew with a flat load floor and flip-up rear seats to maximize cargo space.

    A Ford spokesperson said core truckers -- fleet buyers, occupational buyers and buyers who mix work and recreation -- have increased from 30 percent of the segment in 2003 to 40 percent currently.

    In Ford's view, the largest segment remains occasional-use buyers -- those who may haul a boat or an RV a couple times a year. In 2003, they represented half the segment but have fallen to 43 percent, Ford says.

    Ford's emphasis on core buyers is different from when it launched the last-generation F series in 2003. At that time, Ford improved interior refinement, a move that Scott says "really played into the personal-use market." Now Ford is looking at taking weight out of the trucks and using turbocharging to get a higher output out of smaller, more-efficient engines. Scott said Ford plans to bring an EcoBoost engine -- combining turbocharging and direct gasoline injection -- to the F-150 in 2010.

    But Ford won't change the basic package.

    "Our read is that the customer likes the size of the truck and the ride height of the truck," Scott says. He says that whether hauling construction equipment or a trailer full of jet skis, "the core trucker is someone who really relies on those capabilities."

    Ram: 'Fight the trend'

    Not everyone is convinced personal-use buyers are a lost cause.

    Fred Diaz, CEO of Chrysler's new Ram brand, says Chrysler will continue to market to personal-use buyers.

    "I know what the data say about the full-sized truck market, and I'm convinced the best way to fight the trend is to work extra hard to understand what personal-use customers want -- but do it without compromising Ram's reputation for hard work and capability," Diaz said in a written response.

    Some dealers say they still are selling pickups to personal-use buyers. In Weimar, Texas, Chevrolet dealer Tommy Brasher, owner of Brasher Motor Co., says the shock of the spike in gasoline prices in 2008 has worn off.

    As a result, he says, "We've seen that people who don't really need pickups are still buying pickups. People that drive a pickup because they like to drive a pickup are buying new pickups."

    Steve Torrence, general manager of Meginnis Ford in Lincoln, Neb., says he sees a wide range of pickup buyers, including personal-use buyers.

    "For all practical purposes," Torrence says, "they don't have a need for them, but they just like them."

    Still, Ford and GM expect such sales to dwindle. But even with the loss of 150,000 to 200,000 personal-use buyers annually, Ford's Scott and GM's Schwegman see U.S. full-sized pickup sales could hit 2 million units within three or four years.

    That's not a 2005-level boom, but it would still be a lucrative business.

    Says Scott: "There's clearly a future for full-sized pickups."

    It just won't include many urban cowboys.

    Amy Wilson contributed to this report
  2. vehicle sales overall have done a pretty similar nosedive, so ill wait and see.

    and its already been shown GM and ford arent very good at predicting what people will want in the future.
  3. So true.
  4. Replace Ford w/ Chrysler.
  5. If I can find a used 09' extended cab F150/250 for under 30k ill be seriously considering it over a an 06/07 Sti next year
  6. For that many moneys you could get a ram srt-10.
  7. Useless truck
  8. Would be pretty fun though.
  9. what why its got a truck engine
  10. you can buy a Brand NEW Ext Cab 2LT Silverado for 28K
  11. Chev/GM can eat shit
  12. 2wd/low profile tires are the shits, power wagon please
  13. its all about the raptor.
  14. ok If you don't like Chev/GM trucks .. but by far better than Ford.
  15. #15 DrifterB2W, Dec 1, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2016
    2010 is out in the new body work

    its like $46000 tho..
  16. I think its transmission just broke.
  17. Speaking of quality Chrysler products, the transmission in my 95 Dakota winter beater just went AND just recently my dads tranny in his 03' Ram broke too

  18. wut is htat

    beaut effort m8
  20. PRAWNS
  21. That's about all it's useful for.
  22. It probably struggles carrying that shit too
  23. lol at wanting a dodge over a chevy

    the new gen chevy trucks are quite nice

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