In a meeting with Doug Scott, Truck Group Marketing manager for Ford Motor Company, Truck Trend editor Allyson Harwood succinctly summed up the demands of truck buyers, particularly full-size buyers. She said, "All we want is everything." Although that statement may seem like a humorous aside, it holds a lot of truth. Today's full-size pickup market is one of the most demanding segments to design for.
Most other market segments have an implied trade-off inherent in the vehicle purchase decision. If you buy a subcompact, you don't expect limousine-like rear legroom or scorching 0-60 and quarter-mile times. The purchase is a pragmatic one driven primarily by affordability and economy. Conversely, if you buy a Lamborghini Aventador or Ferrari 458, you know you're sacrificing ultimate fuel economy, serene, isolated NVH characteristics, and generous cargo and/or passenger capacity for the visceral thrill brought by screaming high-rpm Italian thoroughbred powerplants.
But full-size pickups, especially today, are bought for their do-anything capability. And today, "anything" also means chauffering the kids for soccer, ballet, and karate, heading to Home Depot to load up on the materials for your arm's-length "honey-do" list, hitching up the ski boat for a trip to the lake, or taking a 3-hour road trip to visit Grandma. And on top of all of that, the vehicle is expected to deliver more than 24 mpg on the highway. Oh, and make sure it's still got some power when you stomp on it.
Until shortly after I graduated from college, the only real expectation of trucks was that they could carry a load or tow a trailer. Crew cabs were still a rarity only seen on 1-ton dualies and oddball foreign models sold in Africa and Asia. Once those extra doors and a full rear seat became mainstream, customer expectations of pickups went through the roof.
Today, we take for granted 300-hp V-6 crew cabs that get 25 mpg. That combination of terms even a decade ago would have gotten you laughed out of the room or greeted with cynical replies of "impossible." Yet today, there are trucks on the market that deftly combine all those attributes, and the innovation isn't about to come to an end. All the Detroit Three truck makers have a laser-like focus on fuel economy, while at the same time realizing customers don't want to give up comfort, capability, or performance. And performance in the context of trucks also means payload and towing, in addition to the traditional 0-60 and quarter-mile times.
But, rather than throwing up their arms in exasperation and throwing in the towel, the engineers, designers, and product planners for full-size trucks continue to work diligently to raise the bar on the trucks' refinement, economy, capability, and features. A tough job for them, but a great outcome for us. We can't wait to see what the future holds for the segment.