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More Efficient, Updated Large Pickups are Favored by Consumers

More Efficient, Updated Large Pickups are Favored by Consumers

By Philly Murtha, April 15, 2015

It's been true for decades: Americans love their pickup trucks. And automakers have been all too happy to meet consumer demand for these highly profitable haulers, some of which can retail for more than $50,000. To wit, nearly one in eight new vehicles purchased or leased in the first quarter of 2015 was a large pickup. This segment now comprises 12% of the U.S. market (through March), up slightly from 11.9% in the same period a year ago, according to sales data from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

In March, large pickup brands--Ford, Chevrolet, Ram, GMC, Toyota, and Nissan--sold 921 fewer units than in March 2014 (March 2015 had one less selling day than last year's same month). Ford, Ram, Toyota, and Nissan posted slight dips while GM's Chevrolet and GMC brands reported gains. Through the first three months of 2015, Ford's large pickup sales share was 35.8% vs. 37.5% a year ago; combined, Chevrolet and GMC large pickups captured 36.2% in January through March 2015 vs. 33.8% of segment sales in 2014. Ram maintained a 21.4% share, slightly off from 21.8% last year.

Manufacturers delivered 181,837 large pickups in March, up 3.5% from a year ago on a selling-day adjusted basis. Through the first quarter of 2015, all six brands delivered 7% more trucks--30,905 units--than in the first quarter of 2014. Almost 475,000 large pickups have been delivered so far this year.

Ford F-Series: Still America's Best-Selling Truck
Ford's F-150, which has retained the sales crown for nearly 40 years, remains the best-selling light-duty large pickup in the United States. F-Series trucks (both light- and heavy-duty) are top-sellers, closely followed by Chevrolet's Silverado 1500 and Silverado HD and GMC's Sierra 1500 and Sierra HD trucks. Ram, now part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), also has an entry--the Ram 1500--that is among the 10 best-selling models in the United States in 2015.

The major large pickup makers continue to make improvements and advancements in their trucks and powertrains. This year, Ford launched a redesigned 2015 F-150. Sales will likely increase as Ford ramps up production of the new model, which features an aluminum body for better handling and fuel economy, according to the automaker. Along with lighter weight, Ford has added a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 to its lineup of efficient engines; V-8s are no longer optional powertrains on the light-duty F-150.

According to the EPA, a base 2015 Ford F-150 gets an estimated 18/25 mpg city/highway. A power tailgate and cargo ramps are additional special features. Ford also is bolstering its Super Duty large truck profile with a more muscular diesel powertrain. According to a review in U.S. News & World Report, test drivers say the MyFord Touch system in the 2015 F-150 is more user-friendly and responsive than it used to be.

Not to be outdone, GM debuted its latest Chevrolet Silverado 1500 for the 2014 model year and sales gains are evidence of the truck's popularity. This year, GM launches a redesigned Silverado HD pickup truck that incorporates refinements carried over from the 2014 Silverado 1500. A quieter interior and new engine options such as a turbocharged, 6.6-liter V-8 diesel that delivers 397 horsepower are included.

GM's higher-end, commercial-grade GMC truck brand also has posted sales increases in March and through the first 3 months of 2015. One of the main differentiators between GMC's Sierra and Chevy's Silverado trucks is that GMC offers more look-and-feel refinements, including metal trim on the steering wheel and around the console.

Another major truck brand, Ram, continues to sell brawn and power. Most upgrades this year are for the Ram Heavy Duty lineup, including an increase in torque with a Cummins diesel engine option. Improvements have been made to the rear suspension, durability of vinyl upholstery, and towing capacity. Fuel economy for a base-model Ram 1500 is an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg city/highway. The diesel version yields 20/28 mpg, noteworthy for a large pickup.

Not to be forgotten, Toyota and Nissan Groups plan to ramp up their large pickup sales with future redesigns. Both the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan posted lower sales in March, although Tundra deliveries were up by 1,355 units in the first quarter of 2015. Tundra only offers V-8 powertrains and has dropped its V-6 option. For 2015, Toyota has added an off-road version of the Tundra that includes a racing suspension and aluminum wheels wrapped in off-road tires.

A redesign of Nissan's Titan full-size pickup is in the cards for the 2016 model year. Meanwhile, a few new exterior colors and updated option packages are available on the 2015 model. The new 2016 Titan will reach dealer showrooms later this year and is slated to be able to tow up to 12,000 lbs., be more fuel-efficient, and more powerful with a Cummins 5.0-liter V-8 turbo diesel engine.

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