Whether you live in the middle of New York City or in the great wide open of Texas or Nevada, you do not have to drive on any US road for very long before you see a pickup truck. And while there are plenty of brands populating the segment, you’re most likely to see a Ford truck, since these models top the sales lists year after year, with over 500,000 Blue Oval pickups sold in 2021. With this being the case, one can’t help but ask the question, why exactly are pickups so darn popular in the USA?
Cliche, but true
Americans are often denigrated for the culture of supersizing everything. And while the documentary that popularized this bias may have focused on the fast-food industry, the automotive industry could be viewed through the same lens. Bigger is still often seen as better, which is why compact sedans and hatchbacks have all but gone extinct in the States.
Now, almost every driveway is filled by an SUV or a crossover, although a truck is just as likely according to market reports. However, it isn’t simply size that serves as the deciding factor when buying a new car. Shoppers in the US are more savvy than ever, and they want a lot more bang for their buck. These high-riders tick a lot of boxes that a sedan or coupe simply can’t. These include:
- Large cabins with room for up to seven passengers
- Spacious trunks and high towing capacities
- Versatile nature of pickup bed
- Workhorse nature and rugged construction
- Excellent safety review scores
- Very comfortable ride quality
While not all of these factors are applicable to all pickups, the same general theme does carry through.
Work smart, not hard
Where, once, trucks were seen only as a workman’s tool, they have evolved like most of their automotive brethren to serve a wider range of needs. The top sellers each offer a variety of configurations for their flagship models. This includes adding or deleting the back seat bench as needed, or speccing on a stronger engine or an all-wheel drivetrain. However, horsepower alone isn’t enough to make a real difference in these beasts, which is why many offer a diesel engine with high torque outputs. This both improves towing capabilities and fuel economy. As a general rule, though, these large machines return terrible mileage figures.
By combining the ability to accommodate an entire family’s worth of passengers with top levels of workhorse ruggedness, pickups are jacks of all trades, meaning that you no longer need multiple vehicles per household. Or, at the very least, you can double up your work car as a family car, too, though this means spending quite a bit more than the MSRP of a base model two-door truck.
As stated, Ford handily trounces the competition in terms of sales, which is not unexpected. Nobody knows better what Americans love than a company that was born and raised among them. And while sales were down this year due to the pandemic and several other concerns, the Ford F-150 still beat the nearest runner-up by more than 100,000 units sold. While it may be the smallest of the F-series, it is perhaps still the most versatile.
Speaking of runners-up, the last two spots on the podium were also nabbed by pickups. Specifically, the Chevy Silverado sold over 260k units, while the RAM Pickup nipped at its heels with sales of around 245k. Each of these nameplates has the same strength of customizability. Despite the growing popularity of sport utility vehicles, the good ol’ classic is still bringing home the blue ribbon.
But, this is not the only reason for the popularity of the pickup. There is also the status, fun-factor, and ability to truly customize these bad boys as an expression of your personality that needs to be taken into account. With custom pickups growing ever more popular, lifted, ‘slammed’, or ‘pimped out’ trucks have become a hobby to many, and the idea of tricking out your ride has slowly become a subculture in the car scene.
As the automotive industry is an ever-evolving beast, what’s popular today may not be in vogue tomorrow. Those who want to remain competitive have to adapt, so it is certainly interesting to speculate on the future of pickup trucks. Will we eventually get bored of them, or will they change to suit new needs and demands? How much longer will it be until we start seeing high-performance, fashionable trucks that are reserved only for those willing to pay top dollar? Only time will tell.