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Detroit Auto Show: Dude, Where's My Pickup Truck?

Foreign carmakers have rushed into every possible category except this one
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma truck is unveiled during the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan on Jan. 12, 2015.

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma truck is unveiled during the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan on Jan. 12, 2015.

Photographer: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

For decades, the American truck has been untouchable—as much a quirk of international tax law as anything the automakers did right. In 1962, frustrated by a glut of U.S. poultry, the European Economic Community began taxing chicken imports. The U.S., in turn, levied a 25 percent tariff on a wide range of European imports, including potato starch, brandy, and—you guessed it—light trucks. The "chicken tax," as it's called, persists to this day, and it has kept foreign car companies largely out of the truck market.

The economic disadvantage is significant. A company such as Kia or BMW would have to charge $56,000 for a truck in order to make $42,000 (the average sticker price on a Ford F-150 last month). That's a $14,000 handicap before anyone even kicks the tires. Rather than fight this uphill battle, foreign carmakers have focused on expanding their product lines into every other available segment, from tiny compacts to slick sports cars. Mercedes added its sixth different kind of SUV this week, bringing its family tree to 17 branches—and it still doesn't make a pickup.