No sneering at the back, these machines drive America.
Today we peer closely at those bread and butter US sales machines – Chevrolet’s Silverado, RAM, a Stellantis brand now separate from mothership, Dodge and the ever-ubiquitous F-150 from Ford.
Spare a thought for those salespeople spread across the land – brand loyalty no longer fully applies – given sales no longer. Once dyed in the wool Chevy fans (for instance) have now taken up the Ford mantle – or even headed elsewhere. Belay playing the Stradivarius, forebear opening those saline ducts, but if you do nothing else today, control your ire – pick-up truck sales have been diminished by the overbearingly buoyant mid and compact crossover segments. But the Big Three (with a smattering of assistance from four minnows) still managed to shift 980,000 units for the first half of 2022.
Starting with the darker leagues, the electrically powered Hummer managed 371 sales, placing seventh. One place up with 11,212 being the possibly soon to die Nissan Titan. Fifth position is taken by the recently re-designed Tundra from Toyota managed a credible 44,316. GMC’s Sierra punches the 118,938 ticket. A pause for the podium places, please. Starting the year in second spot, RAM drop to bronze – 244,983. Taking silver, appropriately enough is the Silverado at 261,828 with gold awarded yet again to F-150: 299,345. Percentages and the like are not your author’s forte, but that’s an impressive figure for anyone. Yet figures overall are down.
Leader for the last 43 years, Henry’s lot started to perspire a little as the competition edges ever closer. Figures that would induce cardiac arrest or whoops of joy within other areas of the industry are the norm over in the States. This business is highly profitable. Following the American rationale of God, Family, Country, Pick-up (not necessarily in that order) one has to delve deeper to understand such prolific success.
1978 CAFE restrictions actually opened up the floodgates. The pick-up had always been a staple but now had chance to breathe deeper and with it become more of an all rounder – both working and playing hard, upping the ubiquitous ante.
Fast forward to the current time. All of the big three offer a basic model starting at around $30,000. The options list then becomes bewildering; customisation is clearly king. As is the pride felt by both manufacturer and customer alike when shifting such large quantities – it really does pay to listen to your customers – and get stuck in.
Taking that view closer is Chevrolet’s creative designer, Tyler Moffat. Regardless of his seniority and complimentary company car, when not corralling the teams towards the next version of the Silverado, you’re likely to find him, wrench in hand, under the hood. Examples of a score years or more of both Suburban and Blazer lies in the Moffat garage; getting down and dirty with the older stuff giving him understanding along with that nuanced feel that makes a Chevy pick-up: “Heritage and intangible clear lines. And that stance,” sayeth he.
The argument against: Pick-up’s all look the same – just as any given segment of car does not. A cab and load base do admittedly make for similar outward appearances. RAM, however beg to differ. Head of Board, Mike Koval sees the brand as the underdog of the pick-up world. “Not literally but figuratively as we push and inspire the competition,” and Koval, along with his team should know.
Aged just 14, Canadian-American Ralph Gilles posted drawings to one Lee Iacocca which led to art college and later becoming RAM’s Head Designer. Along with competition winner, Mark Trostle, Exterior Design. Trostle entered the Drive for Design, an opportunity for youngsters to submit their artwork for critical review. Revived in 2013 and annually since, Trostle believes the future of RAM design lies in tomorrow’s youth. And with the current classes having names like Tradesman, Express and Warlock, a solid silver casting of the word Rampant would sit easily on its load bed.
Heading over to those wearing oval blue, the weight of being number one is shared by many shoulders. Chief Designer, Ehab Kaoud refutes any kind of easy path to maintain that sales position, “Purely and simply, it begins with the driver”, he maintains. His team began to assess the needs of the MY2021 three years previously. A staggering 18,000 photographs were taken of existing F-150s in attempts to glean what could be either freshened up or simply made better. Such a gallery, known as Pride in the Truck was combined with an 1,800 page dossier containing the facts gleaned from customer clinics. “Whether you’re a single truck buying guy or a big fleet, we had to listen to our customers wants and needs. Our trucks have to work as hard as their operators. And that includes lunch.”
Kaoud refers there to a Paul Matta rendition of an interior showing burger, fries and the laptop – essentials all for the typical but by no means average, truck user. Developing into the gear lever stowing away flat, along with a suitable surface to perch the means to check emails or catch up with the next client/the game/the weather whilst consuming human heavy fuel.
Personalisation and details. The inevitable touchscreen can be operated wearing gloves. A small recess allows the hand’s heel to act as anchor point to use the screen whilst driving. American flags in relief above air vents with a map of Detroit found in King Ranch models showing a heartfelt pride. Storage areas of varying sizes, lockable. The onboard generator takes up an underbody area suitcase sized. And stance, “clamped to the ground, 20mm wider than previous to enhance strength with the wheels flush to the body.”
Add two final attributes all three protagonists believe in – reliability and availability – keys to those all important return sales. Desirability remains strong. Take an afternoon to spec one up with another to check out the talented competition, as the big three constantly do. Love isn’t blind – it’s all American pick-up shaped.
Measurement Statistics (most basic models – from here on in, everything gets bigger)
RAM: L; 209”, W; 79.4”, H; 74.6” wheelbase 120”. Front suspension; short and long arm. Rear; multi link
Silverado: L; 237”, W; 81.1”, H; 75.6”, wheelbase 147” . Front suspension; Independent. Rear; solid axle.
F-150: L; 209”, W; 95.7”, H; 75.6”, wheelbase 122.8” . Front suspension; Independent with double wishbones. Rear; leaf spring with solid axle.
 RAM Tradesman $29,650, Ford F-150 $31,520, Silverado $34,600
Data Sources: Carsalesbase.com, motortrend.com, interview with Ehab Kaoud at formtrends.com