Man­u­fac­tur­ers cater to new group of truck buy­ers

The Western Star - - SALTWIRE WHEELS - RICHARD RUSSELL WHEELS

You’ve got to love the ads as the “Big Three” tout the prow­ess of their heavy duty pickups — most, big­gest, great­est, etcetera. Whether it be power, longevity, tow­ing or load car­ry­ing, Ford, Gen­eral Mo­tors and FCA (RAM) con­tin­u­ally storm the air­waves or print me­dia with claims of su­pe­ri­or­ity for these work­horses.

It used to be that HD pickup buy­ers were mainly com­mer­cial in na­ture. Clients tended to be con­trac­tors, power or tele­phone com­pa­nies. But over the past decade or so, there has been a grad­ual shift in clien­tele to in­clude folks tow­ing heavy trail­ers. As travel trail­ers grew in pop­u­lar­ity and size there came the need for more ca­pa­ble tow ve­hi­cles.

Reg­u­lar “light-duty” full-size pickups are quite ca­pa­ble of tow­ing or haul­ing some pretty big loads. They re­main the sin­gle most pop­u­lar ve­hi­cle in North America. But for more se­ri­ous work, heavy-duty pickups are the or­der of the day. They may look much the same as their light-duty sib­lings, but have been up­graded for more se­vere duty. Ev­ery­thing from the cool­ing and elec­tri­cal sys­tems to the frame, brakes, steer­ing and wheels and tires have been up­graded.

And, of course, the en­gines and trans­mis­sions are sim­i­larly of a dif­fer­ent breed. This leads to the claims of su­pe­ri­or­ity men­tioned above.

This new in­ter­est in HD pickups had a fas­ci­nat­ing el­e­ment — these peo­ple wanted a much nicer pickup to tow their life­style trail­ers. They wanted the ca­pa­bil­ity to haul big loads with­out over­heat­ing or slow­ing down on long grades. But, they weren’t in­ter­ested in the plain, vinyl-seated, wash-it-out-witha-hose HD pickup. This new flock of buy­ers wanted all the ac­cou­trements. They wanted sup­ple leather on the seats, a full-fea­ture in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem in the dash and all the bells and whis­tles.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers were ly­ing in wait for this new group of buy­ers. Each of the three had heavy duty pickups on the pro­duc­tion line, or in de­vel­op­ment, that could eas­ily be con­verted from com­mer­cial to posh. Pickups are the most prof­itable ve­hi­cle in any man­u­fac­turer’s fleet. Adding more trim or fea­tures as they roll down the assem­bly line sim­ply makes them even more prof­itable.

We have a con­ver­gence of sorts in 2019. All three man­u­fac­tur­ers have in­tro­duced a new heavy-duty pickup, and all three are claim­ing to be the best.

For al­most two decades, when I was in­volved with AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year pro­gram, we faced the task of try­ing to pop­u­late a pickup cat­e­gory. The rules called for two or more all-new ve­hi­cles to gen­er­ate a class. Very rarely were there two new ones and never three in the same year.

Now we have all-new F-Series, Sil­ver­ado/Sierra and Ram HD pickups. All are avail­able in sev­eral trim lev­els, in­clud­ing a leather-lined, limo-like ver­sion. The op­tion lists com­prise sev­eral pages of choices. Prices quickly top the $85,000 mark. All also of­fer even heav­ier-duty ver­sions that serve as box and con­verted util­ity trucks. But for now, let’s deal with the first two stages — 2500 and 3500 series trucks.

Folks buy a HD pickup be­cause they want to tow some­thing heavy. Let’s take a look at their work­ing claims. When it comes to power, look at the fig­ures for torque. In pickups, as in any work­ing ve­hi­cle, torque is what mat­ters — torque could be de­scribed as the abil­ity to work, to move an ob­ject. Horse­power is used in ad­ver­tis­ing, but it is sim­ply a num­ber de­rived from a cal­cu­la­tion based on the ac­tual mea­sured torque.

The cham­pion — for now — is the newly-in­tro­duced Cum­mins diesel in the Ram pro­duc­ing a land­mark 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque. Ford has a new 7.3-litre gaso­line en­gine com­ing this year, so the race con­tin­ues.

Ford Su­per Duty F350

Ram 2500 HD

Chevy Sil­ver­ado 2500 HD

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