Pickup truck sales are increasingly driven by how buyers want others to perceive them, less by how useful and capable they are. The results are bigger, heavier trucks with smaller beds that are more lethal to pedestrians and car drivers when collisions occur.
Does America Love Pickup Trucks?
Pickup trucks are some of the most popular vehicles on the road. In 2021, the top three selling new and used vehicles were pickups, according to iSeeCars. They were the Ford F-150, the Ram 1500, and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500. An SUV, the Honda CR-V, tied the Silverado for third place in new vehicle sales.
The highest-selling new and used vehicle in Louisville in 2021 was the F-150. In Kentucky, the most popular new vehicle was the Ram 1500, and the biggest-selling used vehicle was the F-150.
Why are Pickups So Popular?
These trucks have become huge cars with beds. Increasingly they’re not used for work, to haul things in the bed, or tow trailers or boats reports Axios. They are mainly used for shopping, errands, and commuting. Survey data shows a third of pickup owners rarely or never haul anything, and two-thirds rarely or never use it to tow.
Why are large, costly, fuel-inefficient vehicles primarily used for things that don’t require a bed more popular than sedans, minivans, or SUVs? Because owners see their vehicles not as motorized tools to help them accomplish tasks but as a reflection of who they are.
“Today, personality and imagery are playing an even more important role in how consumers choose which truck is right for them,” Strategic Vision researcher Alexander Edwards told Axios. The firm surveys vehicle owners each year about the character traits they associate with their vehicle. Two words set F-150 owners apart: “powerful” and “rugged.”
Survey data underscores pickups’ shift from workhorses to giant, muscular luxury rides:
- 40% of F-150 owners see their truck as “powerful,” compared to 15% of other vehicle owners
- 50% describe their F-150 as “rugged,” compared to 19% on average
- Traits declining in popularity among truck owners: “functional,” “reliable,” “economical”
- Increasingly popular attributes: “modern,” “sophisticated,” “technologically advanced”
This is music to the ears of automakers. Modern trucks come with luxury price tags. The 2023 F-150s start at about $34,000, with high-end models reaching up to $85,000. For that much money, if you want something smaller, you can buy a four-door Maserati, or if you’re feeling sporty and can spend a little more money, a two-door Porsche that tops out at 182 miles per hour.
Automakers’ marketing efforts to make pickups the rugged commuter vehicle of choice create a river of cash for them. A 2022 pickup could make GM $17,000 in profit per truck, according to Jalopytalk, which is about $7,000 more than their margin in 2013.
How Do Bigger Trucks Impact Safety?
Axios traced changes in the F-150 from 1961 to 2021. Older models had two doors (not four), were lower, shorter, and lighter, with longer beds. The weight of current models varies but is around 4,800 pounds. That’s about 2,000 pounds more than the 1961 model and 900 to 1,300 pounds more than a CR-V.
Bigger, heavier trucks appeal to those who want a rugged image and are safer for those inside. Because of the force created by their speed and weight, if they collide with a smaller vehicle or pedestrian they’re also more deadly for those outside:
- If a Toyota Camry strikes a woman of average height, it will hit her legs. If an F-150 hits the same woman, it will collide with most of her body, from her knees to her chest
- The average height of an 8-year-old is about the height of the F-150’s hood
- On average, pickups weigh about twice as much as cars. If you’re in one and involved in an accident with a pickup truck, your chances of getting killed are about twice that of getting hit by an SUV
All major pickup manufacturers currently, or will in the future, offer an-electric pickups. Instead of tanks filled with gas or diesel burned by internal combustion engines, their electric motors will be powered by rechargeable batteries.
Ford is the first to offer an electric, full-size pickup. It weighs about 6,500 pounds which is about a ton heavier than its gas-powered version, potentially making it more dangerous to pedestrians and smaller vehicles.
A full-size pickup is a great option if you want to portray a powerful, strong image while you buy groceries. But if you hit another vehicle or pedestrian, they’re paying for your ego.
What’s the Next Step?
If a pickup truck injured you or a loved one, and you want help from an experienced attorney, call The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. We can discuss the accident, the injuries, Kentucky law, and your best options. You will be fully informed about your rights, the challenges you face, and the strengths of your case. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.