Manufacturers cater to new group of truck buyers
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-outwith-a-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 leatherlined, 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
Chevy Silverado 2500 HD
Ram 2500 HD