Born in the USA

The Euro-pick-up truck is unwell.

FORD Ranger. Image: What Car

Broadly speaking, we have a good deal to thank our American neighbours for in automotive terms, notwithstanding of course, the fact that some influences have been better received than others. Nevertheless, the automobile evolved more rapidly, and improved in ways we could scarcely have imagined largely due to US market forces. For instance, the modern styling studio was very much an American innovation, and it’s probably fair to say that nobody did more to further that particular art. The minivan originated there and latterly, the aspirational, tech-laden EV. Not to mention the SUV. Mixed blessings then.

The pick-up truck on the other hand; that most quintessentially American vehicle, is at least as old as the automobile itself. Unquestionably the current centre of gravity (and profit) for the US auto industry, the pick-up has evolved from pure functionality to popular icon of authentic no-collar masculinity. Capable, dependable, the sort of individual who can wear a tool belt with authority. After all, real men drive trucks.[1]

One can understand the appeal. It speaks to the inherent urge in us all for capability in reverse, and in these deeply uncertain times one never quite knows how much one is going to require. But while a good many truck owners do in fact use their pick-ups in the manner intended, a decent subset very likely just like the look of themselves in one.

The enormous and seemingly all-conquering success of the enormous and seemingly all-conquering US pick-up did not go unnoticed on this side of the world. While there was always a modest EU market for these utility vehicles, the need was mostly served by 4x4s and various other forms of closed-back commercials.

Latterly however, there has been a minor explosion in such vehicles. Previously, largely the preserve of Toyota’s globally bestselling Hilux, recent times has seen the European market flooded with offerings from amongst others, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Fiat, VW and the blue oval.[2]

Another component to this new raft of flat-backed commercials has been the manner in which they have been marketed. Enter the product strategist, ever on the lookout for the next sales sensation. Tracking the seemingly unending rise of the urban lifestyle truck in the US, where these vehicles come loaded with as much kit and caboodle as anyone’s luxury sedan (with engine sizes to match), they recognised an opening, and as we all know, marketing abhors a vacuum.[3]

The European pickup began therefore to evolve, gaining in creature comforts, in a more sophisticated package, in the seemingly endless lists of optional add-ons, and perhaps most tellingly, in the adherence of a succession of pseudo-aggressive sounding names, like Warrior, Raptor and stencilled upon a Hilux I witnessed yesterday, Invincible. Names that do cause one to wonder why they need to labour the point?

The idea of upmarket lifestyle pick-ups reached its brief European apogee with that tangible experience of modern beauty,[4] the Mercedes-Benz X-Class. Twinned (actually tripleted, if that’s a word) with Nissan’s Navara and Renault’s Alaskan, the X-Class entered the market in 2017, its then CEO, Dieter Zetche prophesising it would “set new standards in a growing segment.” Described as “the world’s first true premium pickup for the modern urban lifestyle,” Mercedes were unabashed in their ambition to pitch the X-Class towards those “new customers who have not considered owning a pickup before.

Cynical acts were akin to breathing for the three pointed star of Sindelfingen by this time, but even by Dr. Zetche’s standards, the X-Class was a horribly potent example, one the market, much to the relief of many less credulous observers, failed to fall for. It was withdrawn from sale in 2020, sales never approaching projections. One assumes the product strategists fell on their swords – or ought to have.

Mercedes Alaskavara. (c) caradvice.com.au

The X-Class’ failure marked something of a watershed, and coming on the heels of Nissan’s announcement of the impending closure of the Barcelona plant where the soon to be discontinued Navara[5] is built, we are witnessing, as auto-journalist, Nick Gibbs argues this week in a well researched and diligent piece of reporting for Automotive News, the ongoing decline of the Euro-pick up truck. As the market contracts, Mitsubishi (who have problems of their own) are, we’re told, set to pull the once popular L200 series from Europe as well. Soon, only Ford Toyota and perhaps VW will remain.

Do you really need to spell it out? Toyota Hilux. Image: completecar.ie

The rationale here contains a number of strands. These vehicles are coming under increasing legislative pressures, meaning that those who might have considered them as a lifestyle purchase might be forced to think twice (commercial users may benefit from tax breaks), while increasingly, this latter subset are gravitating towards more efficient vans and SUV vehicles, which offer greater security, practicality and in many instances, lower costs. So unless a pick-up really is the only possible tool for one’s business, the case in favour is pretty thin.

But more conclusively, there is also the marked sense that in Europe at least, apart from a longstanding modest demand, these vehicles have simply failed to catch the imagination of the buying public in anything like the manner of their North American equivalents; an analyst from industry sage, JATO characterising the push to convert buyers to pick-ups as “a mistake“.

I probably ought, at this stage point out that I have no particular issue with pick ups – not when they are employed in the manner intended at least. But surely there are enough oversized and largely superfluous vehicles sold on spurious grounds to people who simply wish to make a visual statement, without adding further to their number? Lately, the styling of these pick-ups, especially those bearing the name FORD[6] emblazoned in three foot high letters upon their marquee grilles have become more weaponised still, as if an imposing body on frame behemoth wasn’t intimidating enough. So if the European market has indeed spoken, Amen to that.

The decline of the Euro-pick-up might represent a blow to the carmakers in question and certainly to the strategists who espoused them in the first place, but what it suggests more eloquently is not only that the art of product strategy isn’t nearly as straightforward as some might like to think, but also that not everything born in the USA is a guaranteed smash hit on this side of the world.

[1] And Steve Cropley

[2] Many of these vehicles are the results of joint-ventures.

[3] Or indeed a vacuum cleaner.

[4] I’m fond of reiterating this tangible piece of marketing drivel, as it exemplifies how vacuous the art of marketing communication can be when expressed so poorly.

[5] The Barcelona plant also built the X-Class and Renault Alaskan.

[6] And no, it isn’t lost on me that the current Ford Ranger is Europe’s current best selling pick-up.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

42 thoughts on “Born in the USA”

  1. Pickups are too expensive and compromised to work as lifestyle products in europe – one of the reasons they work in the US, is that they are really good value, and not as compromised as smaller pickups due to their packaging.True BOF pickups are inherently pretty cramped due to the high floor, and focus on bed-length. The modern US pickups negate this by being absolutely huge, but if you keep them “compact” you cant have both.

    In Europe, such a heavy and fuel inefficient truck would be taxed pretty heavily, making them compete with actual luxury vehicles that use less fuel, while offering a lot less of everything but open air load space – something thats arguably pretty useless to most civilian tasks due to rain and snow (a van keep things dry at least)

    Though i’m sure an actually good looking and desirable truck would sell like hotcakes had it captured the public imagination – imagine a retro toyota hilux or nissan navara styled to look like their boxy 80s counterparts. Like the new suzuki jimny, im sure people would go crazy for them, compromises be damned.

  2. As an American, I’m surprised that the pickup truck ever got semi-popular at all in Europe! From what I hear, the blue-collar vehicle of choice is the van, and there’s never been any reason to deviate from that. Besides, its recent rise in popularity in America is all image: you really expect me to believe that the F-150 became the bestselling ‘car’ in America over 30 years ago and has stayed that way because everyone started farming? Nah, Ford realized that there are massive margins to be made in selling massive vehicles in this massive country to just about anyone willing to cosplay as a ‘rugged, blue-collar outdoorsman’, even though most F-150s get parked at office parks anyway. That being said, the pickup has always existed in the American background, toiling away at jobsites and lugging around lawn mowers, so its meteoric rise in popularity wasn’t so much a shift in the automotive landscape, but simply a matter of quantity (well, they do have a great deal more trim levels than before; it truly parallels the indication of status that trims on ordinary saloons represented in the ’70s and ’80s, everything from XL, XLT, Lariat, Tremor, King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor, Limited, and now Lightning EV, each with its own identity and intended demographic).

    What utility pickups have Europe had in the past? There was of course VW, Mercedes, and various other drop-side vans that could be considered pickups, and the hilariously rebadged VW Taro (from Toyota), but in terms of the midsize trucks that are popular today (Hilux, Amarok, etc.) they all seem intended purely for pleasure like you mention, with little attention to fleet sales (which still are huge in the U.S.). So my question for you Euro folks is this: was the pickup ever truly popular in Europe? Or was it a fashion fad, destined to have a short career after all?

    1. From my neck of the woods (Portugal) view, they were never popular as in huge sales.
      They were always niche vehicles, mostly bought for actual professional use and only occasionally as a “lifestyle” choice.
      The most popular was probably the Mitsu L200 and Strakar (a L200 with a shorter bed). Lately, the Amarok became more popular but it’s still very residual.

    2. I’m a Canadian living in Europe. I would love to buy a pickup truck. As far as I can find, they are all specced as commercial vehicles i.e. 4-wheel-drive, dual cab (thus a stupidly short box), diesel, manual transmission, and sorely lacking in creature comforts. Isuzu offers a regular cab, but only in a rudimentary trim. I submit that pickups don’t sell in Europe because the manufacturers (or importers?) simply do not offer anything with the combination of utility and luxury that North Americans have come to expect, and are willing to pay handsomely for.

    3. Am I right in my recollection that US manufacturers pushed SUVs and pick-ups because they were originally not included in NHTSA CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) calculations?

      In the UK pick-ups became very popular as ‘perk’ company cars because, as commercial vehicles, they attracted a much lower BIK (Benefit-In-Kind) tax rate than passenger cars. This was, of course, a nonsense and an unintended consequence. The lower BIK was intended to apply to commercial vehicles used for their intended purpose, not as blinged-up ‘lifestyle accessories’.

    4. Hi David. When I had my Ranger, they all had manual transmission. The latest model does offer an optional (ten-speed!) automatic, but only in top-spec Raptor trim with a double-cab and 4WD. It also has a UK list price approaching £50k!

    5. Around the Eastern half of the Mediterranean pick ups are ubiquitous.Go to Greece and there are HiLuxes ans Isuzus everywhere in all imaginable states of decay

    6. Daniel,
      Yes, pick ups and SUVs are counted as “light trucks” for the purposes of CAFE. As fuel economy standards crept up, it was an entirely foreseeable consequence that Ford and the other domestics would steer buyers away from the formerly popular full-size station wagons. Curiously, the same dynamic led to the relative demise of the muscle car coupe. By the time I started driving(1989), the demographic that would have chosen a Mustang or a Camaro were opting instead for pick ups, which, with their lightly laden rear axles, could be a real hoot to drive in the wet and other such low traction conditions.

  3. Good morning, Eoin. I know schadenfreude is an ugly emotion, but I really enjoyed seeing Mercedes-Benz getting its fingers burnt on the X-Class. Trying to charge the thick end of £10k premium for a gussied-up Nissan Navara was beyond cynical and the company got what it deserved.

    I owned a Ford Ranger double cab 4×4 from 2002 to 2009 and it was a fantastically useful vehicle. It was put to work on a major house and gardens renovation project and it carried vast quantities of building materials and garden waste. It was absolutely not a ‘lifestyle’ vehicle, but a proper workhorse.

    It was actually a joint venture product with Mazda, built in Thailand. It looked like this example, but in metallic grey:

    Their are, however, distinct disadvantages to running one as your only or main vehicle. Even though modestly sized by today’s standards, it was pretty cumbersome and had a large turning circle. There was nowhere to put anything out of sight when you left the vehicle unattended unless you bolted a secure storage box to the floor of the load bay, which robbed you of load space. Even though it had ABS, it was all too easy to lock the rear wheels when driving it unladen, and its stopping distance was considerably longer than that of a car, which caused some heart-stopping moments. Some people treated it treated like a mobile skip and I often returned to it to find some detritus thrown into the back.

    Significantly, the chassis was very poorly rustproofed. After I sold it (with around 40k miles on the clock) it failed its next MOT due to significant structural corrosion and has had a chequered history since, with a number of MOT fails for corrosion issues. Tis still going with 75k on the clock at its last MOT, very low mileage for a 19 year-old commercial vehicle.

    1. That’s a nice example of putting a pickup truck to good use, Daniel.
      Yet, it is dispiriting that the vehicle was utterly spent after one renovation project. Some say European vans (and I’m thinking those driving around in France in particular) truly start their lives only after the 100k mark.

    2. Hi Jeroen. It wasn’t the workload that caused the problems as much as bring parked out in the open. It was bodily unmarked when I sold it, but I could see that the chassis was covered in surface rust. I genuinely had no idea that this would lead to an MOT failure so soon after I moved it on.

      I suspect the poor rustproofing is a function of the expectation that, after nine years’ typical commercial use, mist pick-up trucks would be fit for scrap anyway. Our project took four years, after which the Ranger had only light use, and I always took more care of it than most users (non-owners) would.

    3. David Roser: Pickups are not necessarily basic spec. They’re obviously all diesel (petrol just isn’t economic) but you can buy automatics and buyers occasionally do. I quite often see Rangers with all manner of style rather than function accesories – alloys, pseudo roll bars, rough, tough “Wildcat” badging and so on. Rather less often do I see them being used for actual work of course.

  4. For some inexplicable reason, a resident on the opposite side of the canal from me in my new home town has one of those real behemoth American pick-up trucks, big even by their standards. Parked in between normal vehicles, in a European urban environment dating structurally from the 14th century, it looks truly ludicrous. I have yet to see it carry any sort of load, its driver excepted.

  5. The European pick up market is centered on professional use, meaning basic (or ultra basic) specs: white coloured body, steel 15″ or 16″ rims, mid size Diesel engine, … being the maximum luxury the CD radio and aircon units.
    The good looking versions (shiny paint, 18″ rims, chomed bars, …) are the smallest part of the cake.
    The expected failure of the X-Class was due to being targeted to a small part of a small segment of the market.

  6. I think the pickup as a practical vehicle has a very different traditional background in the USA. In the vastness of the farm landscape, far away from the next village or town, the tools did not have to be locked and the farmer/worker had quick access to the load.
    In more densely populated Europe, a van was far more practical to avoid the loss of the load.
    Pickups – or as it is more traditionally called here in Germoney: flatbed trucks / Pritschenwagen – are here rather pure utility vehicles, primarily used by professional companies doing house building or road construction where the driver/worker either parked the vehicle in a cordoned off area or did his work in the immediate vicinity.

    Due to the circumstances, as described by Daniel from his own experience, you usually see pickups with an attachment over the loading area. It turns the Pickup into a van or station wagon. So why not buying a van or station wagon instead?
    Complete senseless.
    Maybe, some owners here want to make a statement with a pickup (“He’s a really great guy, he told me so himself.”) Probably a similar group of people to those who live in an urban environment with an LR Defender. Well, God’s zoo is big.

  7. Pick-ups have always baffled me, due to the theft / inclement weather problems one gets here in Yerp. I guess they’re okay in the Land Of The Free; I once asked an American colleague about pick-ups’ popularity, and he said that Americans liked to haul stuff, or imagine they could do. In fairness, I think Americans do move house and carry things around themselves, more so than Europeans. And Ford pick-ups do seem to be genuinely very capable.

    I saw a pristine, all-white Volkswagen Amarok, with lots of chrome trim, yesterday. It looked good in the bright sunshine. Did you know that the Amarok received Zoo magazine’s “Manliest Motor” award in 2011? Grrr. Why does my brain retain rubbish like this?

    I didn’t know you liked Marc Ribot, Eóin:

    1. Charles: I can’t say I’m an aficionado of Mr. Ribot’s output – my sole forays into avant-jazz amounting to one Lounge Lizards LP, and that did not receive a lot of airtime. (One needed to be in the right frame of mind).

      I’m more familiar with the work he did as guest guitarist on a number of Tom Waits albums; Mr. Ribot rather memorably recounting the rather cryptic instructions from the inimitable Waits, such as: “Play it like you hair’s on fire”, or on another occasion, “play it like a midget’s Bar Mitzvah”.

      The initial reference in fact was intended to reference the Hoover ‘free flights’ fiasco in the 1990s, when the company’s marketers got their calculations badly wrong, leading to a huge PR reversal and a good deal of crisis management in the media.

      Wasn’t the Fast Show BRILLIANT!

    2. Hello Eóin – very good – I’d forgotten about the Hoover promotion. Around the same time, HP Sauce had a similarly disastrous buy-one-get-one-free campaign, where each bottle – including the free ones – came with a coupon to get another bottle free…

      Yes, the Fast Show still makes me laugh.

  8. My word, Charles, that is dissonant music for a Sunday afternoon. But not quite as much as the locally living chap who has obviously just treat himself to a brand new X rated Merc pick up – in brown. One can only hope it was in some sort of sale. Or maybe he bartered a sick cow for it.

    There’s another nearby neighbour who is a jolly decent chap with a Hilux. Thing is, he’s of diminutive proportions which makes the “monster truck’ and those are his words look like little man- big truck syndrome. He adores the brute but concedes the fortune it costs to run. He keeps it pristine too.

    Which is more than can be said for the “best” pick-up I’ve ever seen. A black Navarra, brand new but more battle scarred than a D-Day beach landing, in the employ of some pipe fitters. That thing worked hard for its living but looked so much better than the prima donnas poncing round in their latest bandwagon of over-sized aggression hauling nothing but air, a briefcase and takeaway coffee. For European roads, these things should be working class, smaller, leaner and more in-keeping.

    Springsteen’s song is excellent but as Eóin points out, it’s not for everyone.

  9. Pick up trucks have always had some niche popularity in Britain as they are “Commercial” vehicles and thus have a VAT tax saving. The devil is in the detail though as twin cab pickups are “Fully Vatable”* and so don’t qualify for this saving, not that that ever stops some dealers selling them as “VAT free”. I am fascinated by the way they are often specced up to reduce their practicality, this been a motoring avenue I’ve never had any understanding of- why-for the leather seats and alloy wheels for example? The Mitsubishi L200 (AKA the FIAT Professional Fullback) “Animal” is particularly intriguing to me, Animal being a Cornish(?) business that was launched to bring the velcro watch strap to market, followed by their own wetsuit designs and now “Premium” t-shirts and bracelets that look to be made from bits of twig. Where is the cross pollination that the marketeers presumably see? Surfboards may be bulky but most surfers can cope without needing a pickup truck…
    * Is it a verb?

    1. Hello Richard, re the Animal brand, anything to add a bit of interest, I guess. I can’t recall having heard of them, even though the company was founded in the 80s, but I gather they’ve gone out of business, having been in trouble for some time. Shame.

      I can see the attraction of blinging-up a work vehicle, although it is a perverse human trait that something designed for rough use is often cherished just for its attractive design. A pretty harmless trait, I’d say.

      There is an analogy between pristine pick-ups and body-builders, funnily enough (the people, not companies who make commercial vehicles – this is getting confusing). It seems that people who build themselves up impressively aren’t actually much use on a building site. The people you’ll see doing hard physical work actually have quite wiry physiques.

      In the UK, whether a pick-up tracts VAT depends more on its payload, which has to be over a tonne. I understand a double-cab qualifies for exemption, though. I would say ‘Vatable’ is an adjective, like ‘washable’.

  10. Pjrebordao: In Spain pickups never were very popular, farmers always prefered Land Rover Santanas, Nissan Patrols (locally built), any other 4WD or simply a van. But when I was a child I remember, travelling around Portugal, a lot of small pick ups, perhaps 2WD, with a bed made of wood ( “carrinhas”?) Are they still popular?
    The truth is, living in Sevilla, only 150 km from Portugal, I should investigate myself, the ignorance a lot of spaniards like me have about Portugal is unforgivable.

    1. At the opposite end of the Mediterranean pick ups are very popular. In Italy you get the micro version Piaggio Ape which often is the only vehicle that can use the roads in cities like Siena to deliver goods to the shops. They’re also popular as mobile espresso bars or ice cream shops.
      In Greece you regularly see pick ups in a condition that would give any MOT/MK/TUV engineer an immediate heart attack that can barely move under the load of tons of agricultural products like water melons.

  11. Ever since I drove a Ram 1500 on dirt roads in Finland during winter I love pick-up trucks. Over here in the Netherlands they’ve never been that popular, but lately there has been some kind of loophole in the tax system which makes a pick-up truck an interesting proposition for some buyers. Ten years ago I hardly ever saw a pick-up truck on our roads, but now they’re around, although still relatively a rare sight. Judging by my own experience the most popular model is the Ram 1500 by far, followed by the Navara and the L200. You hardly ever see an F150 or Avalanche.

    One of the pass times I invented to kill the time during boring and tedious motorway journeys with family members is the pick up truck game. The rule is simple: when you see a pick-up truck you yell “pick-up truck” and you’re keeping score. Today I got only 8 on a 2oo kilometer trip. Bad score as I’ve counted to 43 on one occasion on the same stretch of road.

  12. I like the concept of cab-over campers. I could see that, if you were someone with an outdoors job, or hobbies which involved lots of equipment, a nicely-equipped truck with a mobile home add-on could be a lot of fun.

    They are / can be impressive and capable vehicles.

    An electric Ford truck recently towed a 1 million-pound weight.

  13. In the United States pick up trucks and SUVs of all sizes are now essentially big comfortable fashionable sedans. Just like a 1965 Oldsmobile or a Tesla Model S, they meet the American standard for passenger cars: a car that is quiet, smooth, spacious, comfortable, easy to drive, and with plenty of power when you need it (I drive a traditional sedan which makes me very unfashionable). I can tell you from spending a lot of time on the road, our big pickup trucks, which can haul big loads, and tow heavy trailers, almost never do. Almost invariably they only carry only two things—a driver and a latte.

    About 40 years ago the American car companies started improving on noisy, cramped pickups. They added comfort features, improved two-row cabs, and most importantly, emphasized the availability of stout automatic transmissions (American drivers love automatics). Except for some of our oldest inner-cities, our roads are quite wide so maneuvering medium and large trucks for personal use is manageable. Having been to the UK and continental Europe several times, I could not imagine trying to pilot a Chevrolet Silverado on their roads anymore than my parents enormous old 1975 Chevrolet Caprice! I’m sure you’re all very glad that you don’t have to try and see around giant parade-float Pickups while on your daily errands. I say good for you!

    1. Good morning Phil and thanks for your comment. One feature you have and enjoy in abundance in North America is space, which is at a premium in a small island like Great Britain, and in many historic European cities. When my partner and I visit the US for a touring holiday, as we have done many times, I always insist on renting an American car because they are so well suited to the driving environment. You’re right to say they make little sense in Europe, but ‘proper’ (i.e. not subcompact) American cars are just brilliant on your open roads. My choice would always be for a Mustang or Camaro convertible!

  14. Amazingly,American pickup trucks are a MUCH bigger segment in Canada than in the US, 50% more per capita. Yet our standard of living is perhaps on average 70% of the US and we’re not as showy, plus fuel is much more highly taxed. People go to serious lengths to budget for an expensive giganto pickup. The Ford F150 has been the best-selling vehicle in Canada for 50 years, a half-century! Sells well over twice as many as the best-selling car, the Civic, and a sixth as many as in the US from one-ninth the population. Many people consider nothing else. Don’t ask me why, I can’t figure it out either and I live here. Folks like ’em, period, and logic and cost of ownership doesn’t enter the picture. At least they’re generally durable.

    From a purely personal POV, the thought of buying one has never crossed my mind, and like Phil R above, I think Europeans got this one right by not really considering them at all as personal vehicles. Now I have millions of people here to convince! Ever tried talking to a brick wall?

    1. Hallo Bill, always nice to hear your report from the North of America!
      Doublecabin pick-ups -that is their proper name!- are also popular here in south eastern Mediterranean Sea! Very practical for various errands, mostly having to do with the cultivation of small fields, inherited from elderly and located in the vicinity of small villages in hard to reach areas.
      Also nice ride, good for camping, biking etc.
      A friend bought one when he got appointed as a teacher in a town centre school. When I asked him why he chose the hilux he answered that he couldnt care less for cars, had no inclination in doing any mechanical job himself and it was the only car capable of giving him a 500k km of low maintenance, repair and trouble free motoring!

  15. The modern 4×4 double-cab “ute” is in plague proportions here in NZ, with the number one and two selling vehicles in 2020 being the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux respectively (source: https://www.autocar.co.nz/autocar-news-app/revealed-new-zealand-s-10-most-popular-cars-of-2020). Some are indeed proper work vehicles, but as often as not they are a blinged-up lifestyle vehicle. Their length means they are inconvenient in the city as parking spaces will barely accommodate their length. Many are equipped with physics-defying braking systems if one goes by how closely they often follow the (small) car in front…

    In the past both Ford and Holden made more car-like utes that sold well, and during the ’70s and ’80s were the basis for “Panel Vans”.

    1. Australia has a similar situation – they are wider and 150mm+ longer than the 99th-percentile car used to set dimensions of car parks, but now make up at least 20% of car sales…

      I haven’t driven an Amarok or new Ranger which are supposed to be better, but have driven many others and they are still a long way from a normal car to drive and I find it hard to justify a 2-ton vehicle for transport even if 30mpg is possible. I did drive a well-used base model version 3.0TD of the type Daniel posted above – m y description would be “high-speed tractor”…

      Caveat – unless you need the towing capacity, also they can carry a lot more than most wagons inc 4x4s that can’t carry much if all the seats are used.

  16. Greetings from America. Looks like I’m the only full-size truck driver here. Most of us see the absurdity of these machines, but path-dependent evolution has made them the optimal choice for people living any place built after WW2, while vans make more sense in Europe and the older parts of America (the F150 is as almost rare in Boston as it is in London, and for the same reason)

    Why WW2? Garages, lane size, and the two car household.

    A van is on first glance superior to a truck, as it has a fully covered cargo area. There’s a problem though – any van tall enough for two men to stand up in and move a washing machine won’t fit in a garage, and any van short enough to fit in a garage is going to be very hard to move things in. An open bed solves this problem.

    Lane size – after WW2, the US standardized on the 12 foot lane, because that’s the size of a WW2 truck. A wide vehicle is no inconvenience in the parts of America built after WW2, and that’s about 75% of the country.

    The two car household is the last bit. When you have two cars, each car can specialize. My wife and I have always had a truck and a small car. When together, we take the small car unless we need the truck. When separate, the one driving less takes the truck. Most years I put less gas through the truck than the small car. Having two cars allows you to have a high cost/capability, low utilization vehicle that complements a low-cost/capability, high utilization vehicle.

    That’s why not only Americans, but also Canadians, Australians, Thais, Mexicans, and even the Taliban love them.

    1. secretasianman: Thanks for your comment and for your US perspective. I can envisage how pick-ups can be very useful, and as working vehicles, they make a lot of sense. However most of the ones I see in this cramped little enclave in Ireland (and Rangers, Navaras and Hiluxes are quite popular here) never seem to haul anything, except I suspect for the owner’s sense of themselves.

  17. Eoin: That’s a behavior I don’t understand at all. The truck is an incredible tool, but as transportation it’s terrible. It rides harshly, it handles like a bus, it’s impossible to park, and is somewhat expensive to drive (1). It’s a compromise we make here in the Land of the Free Refill, because hauling an American-sized boat or RV for 500 miles is a perfectly normal weekend behavior here. I can’t imagine driving one in the narrow lanes of Ireland.

    When I’m doing European things like driving people on pavement, I have a European 3er that has evolved over the decades to be as perfect for that job as the American truck is for the American west (2).

    What I really don’t understand is the SUV. All the disadvantages of a truck, none of the advantages.

    (1) It’s cheaper to drive than you might think. Comparing a twin turbo, six cylinder, 4wd)massive American battlecruiser F150 (Ecoboost 2.7) to a similarly configured BMW sedan (535xi), the fuel economy is almost identical in spite of the F150 being three feet longer and two feet taller. In actuality the F150 is cheaper to run as it takes regular gas and will survive 300k with nothing but indifferent fluid/filter changes. (3)

    (2) I’ve often thought the half-ton truck and the Space Shuttle, those two most American of machines, are examples of a peculiar American philosophy called “and engineering”. NASA wanted capacity for seven astronauts (big cabin). DoD wanted one orbit return (big wing). NRO wanted to carry a Keyhole satellite. The result was the orbital pickup we call the shuttle, which can carry seven astronauts and a Keyhole and bring them back in one orbit, a total capacity nobody actually wanted. Similarly, my truck can take a family and a dishwasher off road at 90mph. The cost in engineering talent and money is enormous, but America’s reserve of both is essentially limitless.

    (3) The running joke is that I need a pickup truck to carry BMW parts.

    1. Hi secretasianman, I see real world data claiming the BMW tends to consume 25% less fuel than the F-150, of course YMMV. https://www.fuelly.com/car/bmw/535i https://www.fuelly.com/car/bmw/535i

      That said, the Ecoboost engines are remarkable, and the F-Series switch to a mostly aluminum body appears to have reaped the expected results in terms of lowering overall mass without compromising function. The overwhelming success of this program causes me to wonder why Jaguar’s switch to aluminum bodies under the same corporate umbrella hasn’t fared anywhere near as well.

      And speaking of unibody vehicles, how do you think real truck people will react to the Maverick unibody lacking a separated bed (as the current Honda Ridgeline has) or large gusseted sail panels to add strength to this area (as the previous Honda Ridgeline had)?

      Regarding STS, I believe that the one orbit return feature was never tested during an actual mission, but thanks for adding extraterrestrial vehicles* to our ongoing discussions which notably have included trains, and aircraft. The forthcoming electric Lightning iteration of the F-Series reminds me more of the STS than does the gasoline powered F-Series, because of its obviously reduced range when hauling serious loads, analogous to the STS’ ability to deliver a large satellite to low earth orbit, yet still short of the necessary altitude for geosynchronous orbit.

      * Which are not driven by their wheels, that is: https://driventowrite.com/2020/12/26/one-small-drive-for-mankind/

  18. Gooddog: This is just anecdata, but my F150 slightly underperforms the EPA estimate, and my BMW outperforms it. Ford is known to ruthlessly game the EPA test with boost and shift point settings.

    I think Jaguar’s switch to Al was as technically successful as Ford’s and Audi’s, but after decades of neglect the perception of being unreliable cars for old people simply could not be overcome.

    The Maverick is going to be a roaring success. “Compact” trucks like Ranger, Tacoma, Ridgeline, etc. are nearly the same size, price, and inconvenience as half-tons. If you’re going to spend $40k+ on a truck that requires strategy to park, you may as well buy the F150. The Maverick, on the other hand, has a dramatically smaller footprint, both physically and financially. It’s the perfect mini truck for the cash and parking constrained young man with dirty hobbies and the younger homeowner.

    For the sort of weekend warrior that wants to carry a dirt bike, mountain bike, a few sacks of concrete, etc. the unibody bed isn’t a constraint. The Ridgeline was never held back by the unibody, it was held back by the price. If you’re going to pay $40k for a truck that gets 21mpg, you might as well get the F150.

    If Ford can keep the price down and the reliability up, they will sell in Tacoma numbers.

    1. secretasianman, The Maverick will live in exciting times because it has real competition in the Hyundai Santa Cruz (and they look completely different). Neither are planned for sale in Europe, yet (nor Australia, as both are LHD only).

    2. Goodness! Two very striking bits of ID. Hyundai´s designers are on performance-enhancing medication. That´s quite a bit of work there. The Ford team are on the same treatment. They´ve pulled a blinder with the grille/inset graphics and the rest of the bodywork has a determined robustness to it. I love the shutlines around the side glass. Thanks for drawing these to my attention.

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