Pickup truck sales have been on the rise as the segment's appeal has expanded from a utilitarian use-case in rural settings to daily driver use in the country, suburbs, and cities alike. Even COVID-19 couldn't stop pickup truck sales as the segment surpassed passenger cars for the first time. Trucks beat car sales by more than 17,000 units in April which is a first for the segment. While most auto brands saw vehicle sales plummet during the COVID-19 pandemic, automakers who lead truck sales including Ford, FCA, and GM maintained strong sales throughout the pandemic.
The surge in the popularity of pickup trucks comes in spite of their price premium. The segment carries significantly higher average price tags than most mass-market passenger cars and even some luxury cars. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average price of a pickup truck in 2019 was $44,000 which is more than a base BMW 3 Series. So, what is driving this truck craze? Ford decided to find out. The automaker, whose bread and butter is the truck segment, commissioned a survey of 2,000 American truck owners from all walks of life, age groups, and truck brands. Here's what they found.
Pickup Truck Owners Are Diverse and Loyal
Go back a few years and imagine the stereotypical pickup truck owner. One of the following images likely comes to mind: someone who lives out in the country and uses a truck for farm chores, a contractor who needs to haul his equipment, or someone who uses her truck to tow a trailer on the weekends. Today, the demographics of truck owners have expanded to include nearly every type of owner, from weekend warriors to suburban soccer moms. Ford's cross-sectional truck survey has a fairly even representation of age groups, truck brands, and genders.
One common characteristic among this diverse group of respondents is the loyalty they have for their trucks. When asked what they would give up for a year before giving up their trucks, 71% answered coffee (we can't fathom), 47% said they would hand over their cell phones (how would that work, exactly?) and 38% said they would give up sex (we can see couples therapy in their future).
Pickup Trucks Represent American Values
Ford's survey of truck owners found that pickup trucks are more than just a mode of transportation to get from point A to point B. Just like luxury cars are often purchased for the status symbol, pickup trucks are also chosen for what they represent. Owners feel that their trucks symbolize hard work and self-reliance, two characteristics essential to the American dream.
“ America loves trucks because they connect us
to an enduring American cultural truth about the
resiliency, hard work, and undaunted determination
of Americans to tame frontiers, build big things, and
overcome adversity – needs that have come to the
fore today. Trucks have earned their iconic status
by giving builders and dreamers the flexibility and
power to get things done and control our destinies,
especially in challenging times.”
Aaron Ahuvia, Marketing Professor, University of Michigan
Truck owners see their vehicles as an extension of themselves and their values, which may explain the willingness to pay a higher price. Truck shoppers aren't just buying the vehicle for its capability, but also for the image and characteristics that it represents: self-reliant, dependable, accomplished, etc.
Luckily, self-image isn't the only driving force behind the popularity of trucks. Ford's survey found that truck owners put these values into action by using their trucks to help others. Truck owners enjoy putting their vehicles to work for friends and neighbors with 94% of responders saying they have used their trucks to help others, and 34% saying that they use their pickups to help others on a weekly basis.
The Pickup Truck is a Cultural Icon
Pop culture has embraced pickup trucks with open arms, helping to boost the segment's popularity. From TV shows and movies to music, pickup trucks have become engrained in the U.S. culture. Ford has their 'Ford Music' series which features popular artists like Eli Young Band and Rascal Flatts, Ram also partners with musicians through their Ram Life initiative, and pickup trucks have been spotted in countless popular movies. Ford trucks alone have been featured in thousands of movies and TV shows and hundreds of songs.
The fact that truck sales have been rising for the last decade and overtook passenger cars in recent months proves the truck craze is more than just a fad. Automakers have taken note, and are investing heavily in the segment as a result. From the award-winning Ram 1500 to the Chevy Silverado, to the new Ford Ranger and upcoming redesigned Ford F-150, there is no shortage of options for the loyal and hard-working truck shoppers out there.