Saturday, August 27, 2016

Big honkin' trucks. America's got 'em

PAMPLONA, Spain -- We just returned to Spain after two months in the U.S., and nothing impressed me more than the size of the popular pickup trucks, like this one, the Ford F-150.

The Ford F-150 is the most popular vehicle sold in the U.S.

This is one big truck for tough guys who like to work hard. It has "military-grade aluminum alloy", according to the ads. But don't let anyone kid you.  

This truck is also for soccer dads and soccer moms, because right after telling you how tough it is, the ads tell you that it's the safest ever. Chevrolet's competing model the Colorado is advertised as "tough" for the dads and "refined" for the moms. Brilliant marketing.

The Ford F-150 has been the top selling vehicle in the U.S. for more than 30 years.

In my unscientific, completely random, totally unreliable survey of what I thought I was seeing in the states of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and (mostly) Ohio and Michigan was that folks use these crew-cab pickups to commute to work, run errands, shuttle kids, and haul big toys like all-terrain vehicles (3,270-pound payload for the F-150).

All the manufacturers make their biggest profit margins on trucks and SUVs. This is because buyers' emotions take over. Ford reported that its record profits earlier this year were due to aggressively pricing their trucks.    

When logic goes out the window, salespeople can charge more. Mr. Money Moustache, the original cheapskate, has a very funny take on the whole business of Americans buying trucks. 


The crew-cab pickup has replaced the mini-van for guys with families who also like to believe they are out there exploring the world in search of adventure. And they pay out the wazoo for the privilege.

All the bells and whistles will take you up quickly from the base price of around $25,000 to the salesman's dream of $60,000 or more. GM's Sierra Denali (also a crew cab pickup) has a suggested base price of $51,000, but lots of extras can be added.

Gasoline is cheap in the U.S., which has to be part of the reason people feel comfortable buying the big beasts. It was around $2 to $2.15 a gallon for regular gas while we were in the states. Most of western Europe is at least twice as expensive. Compare that to $4.89 in Spain, $5.54 in France, and $5.52 in the U.K. on Aug. 22 (prices are updated daily here).

My absolute favorite monster is the Cadillac Escalade, with base price of $72,000. This is an SUV whose marketing emphasizes its uses for the family and for hauling around business associates.

 A Cadillac pickup truck, no kidding

However, Cadillac did enter the pickup truck competition for about 10 years with its Escalade EXT. All of them were built in Mexico. It bombed with consumers, but it just shows you how desperate manufacturers are to appeal to this market of luxury disguised as a working person's pickup truck.

Cadillac's pickup truck, discontinued in 2013.

Vehicles this big are extremely impractical in most of Europe, given the narrow streets, tighter parking spaces, and expensive gasoline. But I see signs that Europeans are starting to follow us down this road. The ads here sell the same thing -- adventure, size (look how big I am), and power.


The giants of Pamplona's Basque culture
How to spend nine weeks in Europe without losing your shirt
Latin dancing in Germany, Cologne cathedral, and Berlin

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