Tricked out: Pickup trucks get more lux­u­ri­ous

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Dee-Ann Durbin

DETROIT—Heated and cooled seats. Backup cam­eras. Panoramic glass roofs.

Not ex­actly what springs to mind when you think of a pickup. But that's what Amer­i­can truck buy­ers in­creas­ingly want, spend­ing an av­er­age of $46,844 on a pickup, ac­cord­ing to Kelley Blue Book. That's more than the start­ing price of lux­ury SUVs like the Mercedes GLC or the Lexus RX. In 2016, pickup trucks made up a lit­tle more than a third of all ve­hi­cles that sold for over $50,000.

At the State Fair of Texas this month, Ford Mo­tor Co. is dis­play­ing its most ex­pen­sive pickup yet: The F-Se­ries Su­per Duty

Lim­ited, a lux­ury heavy-duty truck with a start­ing price of $80,835. It has cus­tom two-tone leather seats, a heated steer­ing wheel wrapped in hand-stitched leather and high-tech fea­tures like a 360-de­gree cam­era sys­tem that guides driv­ers when they're hitch­ing up a trailer.

A fully-loaded F-450—the big­gest ver­sion of the Su­per Duty—will top out at $94,455. It's ca­pa­ble of tow­ing an Air Force F-35 fighter plane, but it also has mas­sag­ing seats.

Fiat Chrysler's Ram brand is also show­ing lux­ury pick­ups at the fair. The 2018 Laramie Longhorn South­fork edi­tion has a wal­nut-trimmed steer­ing wheel and 4G Wi-Fi ca­pa­bil­ity. The Heavy Duty Lone Star Sil­ver—sold only in Texas—has a lux­u­ri­ous bright chrome grille. Both start around $50,000 and will be avail­able later this fall.

On a re­cent visit to the fair, some vis­i­tors balked at the prices. One said he's rather buy a Mercedes S-Class if he had $80,000 to spare. But oth­ers took the high prices in stride.

"It's awe­some. I'd love to be go­ing down the road in it right now," said Paul Churchill as he sat in the cab of the Su­per Duty Lim­ited. "If you're look­ing for all the tech­nol­ogy they have in these trucks now, it's prob­a­bly worth it."

De­mand for lux­ury trucks is strong. Ford says around half of the in­di­vid­ual buy­ers who pur­chase Su­per Duty trucks opt for one of its three lux­ury ver­sions—King Ranch, Lariat or Plat­inum. The Lim­ited ver­sion will sit at the top of that heap.

Ken­dall Bach­man, who works for an ex­ec­u­tive search firm in the re­new­able en­ergy in­dus­try, paid $40,000 in 2013 for a lim­ited edi­tion 2011 Toy­ota Tun­dra CrewMax that's up­hol­stered in leather from San An­to­niobased Luc­ch­ese Boot Co.

Bach­man, of Red­ding, Cal­i­for­nia, needed a truck to tow his fish­ing boat and camp­ing trailer and haul lum­ber and land­scap­ing ma­te­ri­als for his 3-acre prop­erty. He also wanted some­thing big to pro­tect his four kids and leather that could with­stand stains.

At the same time, Bach­man wanted his truck to con­vey sta­tus.

"I wanted some­thing that em­bod­ied who I am more than a lux­ury sedan, but that would still al­low me to feel com­fort­able at­tend­ing meet­ings for busi­ness peo­ple in town who drive lux­ury cars," Bach­man said.

The lux­ury trend has helped pick­ups out­pace the in­dus­try in terms of the prices they com­mand. So far this year, the av­er­age ve­hi­cle is sell­ing for $34,671, up 38 per­cent from 2005. The av­er­age price of a full-size truck has jumped 54 per­cent in that same pe­riod, to $46,844.

Ford kicked off the lux­ury truck trend in 1999 when it in­tro­duced the Har­ley-David­son F-Se­ries. The King Ranch edi­tion fol­lowed in 2001. Gen­eral Mo­tors Co. brought out its high-end GMC Sierra De­nali pickup in 2002; the Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado High Coun­try fol­lowed in 2014. The Ram Laramie Longhorn ar­rived in 2010.

Todd Eck­ert, Ford's truck group mar­ket­ing man­ager, stressed that Ford is still meet­ing the needs of buy­ers who want an ev­ery­day work truck. The base model of the 2018 Su­per Duty starts at $32,890. But he said some cus­tomers are also de­mand­ing more com­fort and safety tech­nol­ogy, like for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing sys­tems and adap­tive cruise con­trol.

"They have come to a point where they want to reward them­selves," Eck­ert said. The Su­per Duty Lim­ited goes on sale this win­ter.

Re­becca Lind­land, an ex­ec­u­tive an­a­lyst with Kelley Blue Book, says lux­ury truck buy­ers cut across age spans but share a mind­set. They could buy a Ger­man lux­ury car, she says, but they want the blue-col­lar brawn of an Amer­i­can truck—or, in Toy­ota's case, a full-size truck built in Texas.

"These are peo­ple with money. These are peo­ple who have been very suc­cess­ful," she said. "All they want is the most tarted-up pickup they can buy."

As­so­ci­ated Press

A man looks at the in­te­rior of a fully-loaded F-450 Su­per Duty Lim­ited, the big­gest ver­sion of the Ford F-Se­ries, on dis­play Mon­day at the State Fair of Texas in Dal­las. Amer­ica's fa­vorite lux­ury ve­hi­cle is a pickup truck. Buy­ers are in­creas­ingly...

As­so­ci­ated Press

Peo­ple look at a fully-loaded F-450 Su­per Duty Lim­ited, the big­gest ver­sion of the Ford F-Se­ries, that is on dis­play Mon­day at the State Fair of Texas in Dal­las.

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