“An important factor is the mass of the vehicle. Too much mass will negatively affect payload and trailer ratings. Customers should look beyond the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) to find efficiently designed trucks that provide higher payloads versus the weight of the truck,” he explains.
The choice between capability and fuel economy is a tough one for remodelers “who make money based on driving their trucks to their jobsites; fuel economy hits their bottom line. But they can’t forget the practical reason they have trucks to begin with: to haul tools and materials,” Miller explains.
Miller notes truck makers are studying a variety of fuel-economy measures while striving to meet emission regulations and acceleration standards expected by truck buyers. V-6 engines are now widely accepted in half-ton trucks, he observes, something that would not have been true five years ago. Hybrids are pretty rare in truck circles, and diesel engines are not an option for half-ton trucks, he adds. Transmissions are being expanded to 7, 8 or even 9 speeds to linearize acceleration and save fuel.
“Better designs have allowed powertrains to perform better and deliver improved fuel economy,” Tigges agrees, noting that GM offers a V-8 engine that turns off four of the eight cylinders when they are not needed and is teamed up with a 6-speed transmission.
“Of course, other factors also contribute to fuel economy, such as better aerodynamics, lighter weight and mass management,” Tigges adds.
In the appearance and amenities area, truck buyers are increasingly choosing options, like leather seats. “It shows they’re making money at their business, that they’re not just getting started but are an established businessperson who can afford some amenities in their truck,“ Miller says. “When they have dusty pants on, they can easily wipe leather upholstery down and clean it up, and it doesn’t absorb odors as easily as cloth.”
Cabin configurations of pickup trucks have evolved significantly in recent years. For half-ton trucks, regular or standard cabs with a single row of seats and two doors are down to about 20 percent of the mix and 17 to 20 percent in the full-size truck market. “That’s been pretty flat for eight or nine years,” Miller says.
Extended-cab trucks, with an extra space behind the main seat have declined to around 20 to 25 percent as well, Miller points out. Crew- or dual-cab trucks, however, with two seats and two full-sized doors on either side have soared in popularity to occupy almost 50 percent of the market.
“Even a hard-core truck guy knows he’s going to have to haul family around sometimes and likes to have a crew-cab truck that can accommodate his kids, family and even his parents, yet still have a bed to haul his gear in,” Miller says.
Crew cabs, therefore, are popular with younger buyers with families. “An empty nester who doesn’t have to haul as many people,” Miller says, “starts thinking maybe he’d rather have an extended cab with a bigger bed.” The person who buys a standard cab truck generally just uses his truck to haul things, not people, and, Miller says, is generally older.
Pickup trucks are just one part of the truck market that remodelers may want to consider. If a remodeler wants something with a small footprint, fuel economy and maybe a lot of security for tools and materials, Mike Levine, Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co. truck communications manager, suggests his company’s Transit Connect van, which debuted in 2010 in the small van market.
“It depends on needs, but if remodelers are looking for something that offers a secure enclosure without having to go out and purchase an aftermarket cap for a pickup, then they certainly get that flexibility with Transit Connect because you’ve got all that space in the back,” Levine says, noting the small van has a payload rating of 1,600 pounds, “and that’s greater than some half-ton pickups out there.”
On the subject of vans, Levine reveals Ford’s full-sized E-Series vans will be replaced in 2013 by a new van called the Ford Transit, not to be confused with the smaller Transit Connect. The new Transit is based on Ford vans that have been built and sold in Europe and other markets around the world since 1965. The new, heavy-duty version will be assembled in Kansas City, Mo., the same plant where Ford’s F-150 pickups are produced, Levine says.