Mexico made about 700,000 body on frame pickup trucks in 2016 from an assortment of brands, Chevrolet, GMC, Ram, and Toyota. Which begs the question, why are pickup trucks still a thing?
Full disclosure: I am a Mexican from the “valley” region that doesn’t have an impossible to understand love for pickup trucks alike northerners do. I do however have an impossible to understand love for the Tacoma.
Lets begin with an objective description of what a pickup truck has traditionally been: A work vehicle with an ample cargo bay and, in some cases, off road credentials. A pickup truck is traditionally body-on-frame, has a solid rear axle, and can be RWD or 4WD.
Tax credits and environmental laws.
Given that description lets talk about prices. According to Edmunds, Trucks had an average sale price of 40,696 in 2015; eight thousand dollars higher than all vehicles sold in the US at the time and also a 41% increase from 2004! This would surely make businesses that depend on trucks angry were it not for ample deductions made available.
As long as the vehicle has a separate load bay of at least 1.8m of length and a GVWR between 2.7 and 6.4 metric tons a truck could claim a 100% tax deduction. Which is all fine and good until you learn that vehicles outside this range (and others for passenger buses) can’t be deducted entirely. Which means that a business could find itself buying a truck for no applicable purpose other than cashing in tax credits. The job that could’ve been done by a small, more fuel efficient, space efficient vehicle goes to a heavy truck that will not be used for what it was designed to do. Plus, as far as I could research hybrids/electric only qualify for a $7,500 write off, which again, leads us to a position where a business might be making the best decision by buying a Chevrolet Colorado instead of a Toyota Prius.
While you might puff up your chest and say “Fuck Prii!” remember, some of us need to breath and/or consume fossil fuels. This built in inefficiency makes trucks seem more reasonable for businesses that don’t need them. Which hikes demand, which in turn hikes prices for all trucks, which is bad for the government as they recoup less tax revenue and for consumers. This without even mentioning that American trucks don’t have real rivals thanks to policies like the Chicken Tax.
Another thing that has kept pickup trucks artificially alive is exception to the Gas Guzzler tax which would make sense for business purposes, but extended to the entire population, this exception causes more demand for trucks which means, again, higher prices.
Then we can focus on enviromental laws like California’s EO’s and CARB regulations that have kept diesel truck prices artificially high. A business could write off a diesel truck, use it for ten years and then sell it for an exorbitant price to an enthusiast or a tuner just because it doesn’t have to comply with some enviromental regulations due to it’s age. While one could argue that some EO’s and CARB programs present an unreasonable burden on consumers that do not result in environmental protection, it is a program that has inadvertently kept unstable, unsafe vehicles in the roads. As older trucks aren’t exactly good at dealing with collisions. Neither are older trucks good at avoiding collisions in the first place, what with their rudimentary electronics, high center of gravity, and permissive suspension set ups: Making them hazardous for all drivers.
From a design perspective.
As Jeremy Clarkson eloquently described when testing the SVT lightning, pickup beds are open which means that someone could steal your shit if you stop at a set of lights, something that to him seemed to be an aspect Americans don’t care about. Yet it’s common to see trucks with bed covers, and also manufacturers touting interior carrying space and lockable sections of the bed. Which sort of leads you to the issue that, if beds are insecure and consumers have to pay a price atop the truck to make it secure, why not buy a vehicle with an enclosed cargo hold in the first place? You might tout the interior carrying space, but you still have a 1.8m bed that is going to be less safe in one way or another.
Then there’s the issue of Americans liking big, luxury trucks. Sure! But what would the price difference between the most expensive F-250 be compared to a Lincoln Continental? You don’t have to imagine it!
Using zip 90001 (Southern California) You get this:
A Ford F-250 Limited with the Diesel engine starts at $81,000
A Lincoln Continental with the 3.0 ecoboost starts at $74,000
The difference between the Lincoln and the F-250 is that the truck’s base is still a work vehicle and whose focus is on utility and not refinement. The Lincoln isn’t exactly fancy either, as it begins with the CD4 platform, but it is still at least based on a passenger vehicle that would perhaps put comfort before utility. Thus, it takes more work to turn an F-250 XL into a Limited than it would take to turn a Continental Premier into a Black Label.
So what about businesses?
Well, lets look at the most expensive Ford Transit Custom panel van in the Mexican Market, and at the specs when compared to the cheapest F-150 on sale. It is clearly showing the Transit as the choice for a business. Because it is! This follows the trend of businesses switching over to vans anyway because of course they would! sometimes even outdated incentives can’t stop a business looking for a different vehicle.
It is not to say trucks are utterly useless, because a Transit Custom is basically useless off road. But, as the world becomes more urbanized that won’t really matter to businesses. It is also not an argument about consumer efficiency because similar rants could be cooked up for performance cars too: Why should I not buy a truck that could haul 903kg if your BMW M4 that could do 155mph only sits in Beverly Hills traffic?
Lets stay with that, by the way. Because the biggest issue with pickup trucks isn’t the efficiency (or lacktherof) it is the space they take. A truck is wide, tall,heavy and long. Urban planners, architects and civil engineers have to plan accordingly. Then you end up having to build deeper parking lots for the taller vehicles with more space reserved for wider, longer spaces and better circulation. Then you need to conduct road maintenance more often because trucks weigh more than normal cars and thus can tear up pavement much more easily. This without even including that it’s absurd how much space a truck takes in a traffic jam, the space of two small cars!
I consider the arguments that I gave to be somewhat objective, and I won’t include subjective arguments because I don’t have any relevant ones. I’m not here to shit on trucks, I’m just saying what I know and understand about them.
I’m probably missing a lot of shit and that’s sort of the point; I want to know your opinion about trucks, which is why this is a part 1; given the feedback from this I’d try to write a part 2. Have a Taco for your time: