Truck manufacturers are seeing a lot of interest in trucks that fulfill both personal and professional needs. In addition, remodelers are looking for good towing capability and hauling capacity — the main reason they buy trucks. They’re also looking for interior amenities like media capabilities, sound systems, navigation systems and the ability to integrate their existing audio equipment into the mix. In some cases, buyers are looking for options that promise enhanced off-road capability or, conversely, enhanced street performance. Overall, though, truck shoppers are seriously concerned with value.
Manufacturers are striving to match the demands of truck buyers with their latest model offerings, keeping in mind that some buyers want a vehicle that can serve both their personal recreational needs and work-related purposes. These buyers may not have a lot of discretionary income, so they want to make their dollars go as far as possible. For these buyers, truck makers are offering packages that satisfy basic needs, offer some amenities, but keep extra-cost items to a minimum.
Other buyers may have a little extra cash to spend, but they’re still concerned about paying a fair price for conveniences and features.
“I think remodelers are asking for pretty much what they have always been asking for — the capabilities that pickups provide for contractors, like the payload, the towing, and the flexibility of the cab and box configuration,” says Tony Truelove, marketing manager for the Chevy Silverado. “Some guys want a long box and some guys want the secure lockability of crew cabs. We haven’t seen significant change in option penetrations or cab configurations over the last couple of years.”
If you look at the pickup truck market as a whole, about two-thirds are light-duty trucks, and the other one-third of the market is heavy duty trucks. Brian Rathsburg, Ford F-Series SuperDuty marketing manager, says the heavy-duty person is looking for three things. First, in general, is the improved capability in towing and payload plus the ability to go off-road if they are in a construction market. The second one is a constant interest in the improved fuel economy, especially in the diesel subsection of the heavy-duty market. That’s about 60 percent of the buyers. The third trend is improvement to technology and that’s basically to make their lives easier and efficient.
“Their truck is also their mobile office,” says Rathsburg. “They’re living in it, they’re operating out of it, and anything that technology can do to make their lives more efficient inside the truck is important to them.”
The biggest news with Ford Trucks is its all-new 2011 F-Series SuperDuty. Going on sale in the spring, it highlights the brand-new Ford-built powertrains, and it speaks to that first trend of customers wanting improved capability. For the first time ever, Ford will be building its own all-new gas and diesel engines and Ford built and designed six-speed transmission. Although performance numbers will be available closer to the launch, it expects class-leading performance in terms of the key attributes of towing, payload and fuel economy.
For the 2010 Silverado, GM focused its improvements in a couple of areas — fuel economy and safety. Last year Chevy had the segment-tying leadership of 21 mpg. This year it was able to improve that through the use of a 3.08 rear axle ratio, a six-speed transmission and a fuel saver mode in its active fuel management system which actually shuts down four cylinders when not needed, plus a 5.3-liter V-8. These changes get the Silverado up to 22 mpg. In the areas of safety, it introduced seat-mounted air bags for the front driver and passenger seats and made the roof rail mounted air bags standard, increasing crash ratings and overall occupancy safety.
On the Toyota Tundra, the big story is really twofold. First the addition of the new 4.6 liter V-8, replacing the 4.7 liter V-8 was the most significant change. The reason for the significance is the great amount of horsepower, 310 hp, and increased fuel economy. So with the 4.6-liter V-8 it still has the ability to tow 7,000, 8,000 or even 9,000 lbs. There also was the addition of the Work Truck Package, which comes on a regular cab, long bed, in both 4x2 and 4x4. It has things like a heavy-duty vinyl bench seat, rubber flooring, black instrument panel, black outside mirrors, and deletes some of the convenience items to make it a more practical work application.
The Nissan Titan full-size pickup continues to enhance its outstanding value credentials with the addition of standard safety equipment and a new SE Value Package option. The SE Value Truck Package offers cloth captain’s chairs, tow hitch, Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, fog lights and more — offered at a substantial savings vs. if these items were purchased separately. Other value enhancements for the 2010 model year include the addition of side and curtain air bags, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) as standard equipment on all models.
The 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty is available for the first time in a crew-size cab model — providing Dodge Ram with a formidable entry in the highest volume part of the heavy-duty pickup segment. It is available with a 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel that produces 350 hp or standard 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 that delivers 383 hp. The Ram also has an all-new integrated trailer brake controller, offered with trailer tow package to improve trailer braking and stability. There are also numerous storage options, including in-floor storage.
To focus on the truck as a mobile office, Ford is introducing its four feature Ford Work Solutions. This includes a mobile computer, using Microsoft Windows CE operating system and is installed in the faceplate of the dash; CableLock, which is a housing attached to the rear quarter panel, inside portion of the pickup box to allow the owner to lock up tools; Tool Link, which uses RFID or Radio Frequency Identification technology to track tools; and a commercial application called Crew Chief, which is basically a telematics device that allows a remodeler to track the location of his trucks at different sites. Also available will be a factory installed remote start feature that recalls the temperature control settings in the truck.
One of the new features that Chevy is introducing is the Chevy Wi-Fi from Autonet, an in-vehicle mobile internet solution. It gives remodelers a 150 ft. radius hotspot around their vehicle so they can use their laptop to get on the Internet, do billing, send e-mails, and things of that nature. Another thing that Chevy offers in its pickup box is a cargo management system which consists of extruded aluminum rails that attach to the pickup sides and allow mounting of aluminum diamond plate toolboxes, removable toolboxes, and an overhead system, giving the trucks a lot of storage solutions. All of these are lockable with the same key used for the ignition to avoid a pocketful of keys.
Each manufacturer is doing what it can to dispel the perception that trucks are nothing more than fuel hogs and to gain remodelers’ trust in their reliability. The truth is trucks are a vital part of many industries, including remodeling, so manufacturers are aware that they need to do what in necessary to increase fuel efficiency.
“Fuel economy is always top of mind for remodelers because of the perceived poor fuel economy of a pickup truck, but a lot of guys we talk to say, ‘It’s a pickup truck and I know I’m not going to get 30 mpg because something that gets 30 mpg can’t do what I need it to do,’ ” says Truelove. “They can’t tow 6,000 lbs. They can’t stow 1,200 lbs. of material in the pickup box. So good fuel economy is among the top reasons for purchase and poor economy is a major reason for dissatisfaction; that’s why we try to improve fuel economy wherever we can.”
Another area of concern at the top of remodelers’ minds is overall reliability, because many of them use their trucks 24/7.
“If the truck is down, they’re not working, and if they aren’t working, they’re not making money. That’s why we have developed our own powertrains on the all-new SuperDuty,” adds Rathsburg. “We’re pretty confidant these trucks are going to perform so that remodelers can get the job done.”