So Torch wrote an interesting article on the chicken tax on Jalop this week. This is my response:
You neglected to mention the benefits of this tax. If you look at the American automotive landscape, trucks are literally the only segment in which the Big Three still remain completely dominant. This has been a crucial boon to these companies as their passenger car business has been slowly eroded away by both over zealous government regulation and completely one-sided trade deals that sacrificed American manufacturing for geo-political interests. The fact is that the profits on trucks has sustained the big three through thick and thin and for that we should really thank the chicken tax. Another way to look at this is that without this monopoly on trucks, we wouldn't have awesome products like the CTS-V wagon or the Boss 302 or the Charger SRT 8. The Big Three simply wouldn't have the profit margins to pay for R&D and subsidize these niche cars.
Now in terms of making a car based Ute, Ford and GM made utes for a long time after the Chicken tax was enacted. The El Camino ended production in 1987 and the Ranchero ended production in 1979. I think that these Utes were simply redundant when you looked at the Ranger and S-10. The El Camino and Ranchero were body on frame cars with solid rear axles- sounds a lot like a ranger or and s-10 no? I simply don't believe that the chicken tax led to the demise of car based Utes.
Rather, I think decreasing fuel prices, increased pickup truck refinement, increased pickup capability, and most importantly continued segmentation of the pickup truck market account for their decline. I would argue that the corvair based utes were an aberration in American trucks and proved too small for the rigors of the American truck using public. Pull sales numbers and prove me wrong, I would genuinely be curious to see how these things sold. The Apache based light duty truck is much more of a one size fits all approach to trucks than what GMs line up will look like with the reintroduction of the Canyon/Colorado. Think about it these Apaches were only sold in one cab configuration and two bed lengths.
So where does that leave us? Why isn't there a modern car based ute like the falcon or commodore? I'm not sure I know the answer, but my guess is the OEMs have done some pretty sizable focus group research into this and there is a reason they are on the fence.
Are they not importing them from Australia because of the chicken tax? The answer to that is clearly NO, there is no chicken tax on Australian trucks. If there really was a strong market I would have to imagine that either GM or Ford would be importing these things. And no, I don't buy the collusion argument. This isn't 1960 where the Big Three control 90% of the market. GM and Ford are very close in terms of sales and game theory suggests that any product that will give them an edge would be put into production.
Anyway if I had to chose between and Ute from Thailand and a US made Colorado/Canyon I would suck it up and get the bigger US truck. This policy might not be the best for consumer choice in Utes but it is the best policy for the American economy and the American automotive landscape as a whole.