Slide Show >>The big news these days is not so much that the Japanese are making a major push to get into the pickup business but how successful the U.S. makers have been at maintaining their advantage.
That's not to say that the Japanese haven't made significant inroads into the market. Companies such as Toyota (TM), Nissan (NSANY), Honda (HMC), and Mitsubishi have aggressively entered the space with vehicles that are, by and large, excellent.
This increased competition has forced Ford (F), General Motors (GM), and Chrysler (DCX) to step up their game, knowing that maintaining their edge in this profitable space requires constant innovation and application. The result is that, from an engineering and design perspective, there has never been a better time to buy a pickup.
NO STOPPING. Of course, many environmentally minded people would quite rightly object to such a statement. The fact of the matter is that, good as many of these trucks are, they still consume a disproportional amount of fossil fuels. At a time when America should be coming up with ways to wean ourselves off the internal combustion engine in order to pursue alternate energy, the popularity of pickups remains defiantly anachronistic, if not incredibly reckless.
What's clear is that, at least as far as the auto makers go, there's no dilemma here. As long as they can make money selling big trucks, they will continue to build them. In fact, for the first quarter of 2006, Ford and GM sold far more big trucks than they did small trucks. The Ford F-150 series, still the best-selling truck in the U.S., notched a healthy 5.5% increase, the third consecutive month of gains according to the company (see BW Online, 4/19/06, "America's Favorite Pickup").
What's interesting to note is that the number of big pickups sold in the first quarter (538,262) dwarfed the number of small trucks (140,527), but that in the latter category, the Japanese were dominant, selling nearly twice as many small trucks as Ford and GM combined. In fact, while Toyota and Nissan have both developed a large truck entrant, Honda has not. Nor have they come out with a range of models and variations, such as the $52,710 Dodge Ram SRT 10 or the $37,300 Ford F-150 King Ranch, seeming to understand that their best chance of success lies in remaining small and waiting for the big trucks to go extinct.
Pickup Sales: First Quarter 2006