Sales of big pickup trucks boom

Automakers try to clear dealer lots for newer, more efficient models
Angelina Chapin
Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks are seen on a dealer’s lot in Troy, Mich., Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. General Motors is offering generous deals to clear a growing inventory of Chevy and GMC pickup trucks. Itís matching or beating deals offered by Ford and Chrysler. That, plus low interest rates, sweet lease deals and abundant financing, is good news for truck buyers. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/AP

North America might appear to be entering the age of electric and hybrid cars, but there is no doubt who the king of the road still is: the big, reliable pickup truck. In Canada, Ford’s line of pickup trucks, the F-series, is the bestselling vehicle, and the company recently announced it sold a record 100,000 trucks in the country in 2012. Other automakers, such as General Motors, are hoping for similar numbers as they introduce new versions of their pickups at a time when the industry is finally firing on all cylinders again.

Pickup truck sales reached their lowest point in a decade just after the 2008 auto crisis left heavyweights such as GM and Chrysler bankrupt, and the financial crisis left consumers’ wallets empty. Five years later, as businesses and individuals are feeling more confident, many are looking to resume spending on what they see as a practical and necessary investment. “Pickup trucks are part of our culture,” says Howard Elmer, a senior writer at Sympatico Autos. “They play to self-reliance and the fact there are more and more entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

The average American vehicle is 11 years old. Having delayed new purchases for several years, consumers are now looking to upgrade. Yet despite the prevalence of smaller models with hybrid engines, demand for full-size pickups jumped 16 per cent in August. Part of the reason is that newer vehicles, while no smaller, are more efficient. GM just unveiled a 2014 model with eco-friendly engines, and Ford’s 2014 model will reportedly be made of aluminum so the body is lighter.

Competition between automakers is at an all-time high, with many offering deep discounts—as much as $5,000 on older models—to make room for the new pickups coming this year. (GM is launching new versions of both its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra truck.) But if you think pickups are the new minivans, rest assured the urban cowboy spirit lives on. “Did I need a truck I could beat down punks in sports cars in?” said one Toyota truck fan on the Tundra Headquarters blog. “No . . . BUT DANG IS IT FUN.”