will the deluge of luxury pickups, poised to arrive by 2005, do to
change the truck accessory market?
Asian and European automakers look at the American market, the first
thing that stands out is the vibrancy of our truck market. But prior
to last year, only American manufacturers built full-size, personal-use
pickup trucks. Toyota, with its new Tundra, is the only exception
to that rule. And it's no coincidence that the Tundra is not built
in Japan, but Indiana - the heart of America's farmland.
The reasons are fairly
clear. First, Our fuel prices are about the lowest on the planet, making
it affordable to drive thirsty V-8 trucks. Second, we have good roads
and lots of wide-open spaces where pickups can roam. And third, despite
our country's urbanization, much of our national acreage is still populated
by farms and ranches - businesses that rely heavily on full-size trucks
to perform work functions. Throw in craftsmen, tradesmen and outdoorsmen,
and you have a fairly large core market.
But something phenomenal
has been happening in the past five or six years. Truck have gone from
hick, to chic - thanks in part to the abundance of accessories that make
them more attractive and more versatile. As a result, trucks now account
for nearly 50 percent of all vehicle sales, and threaten to pass cars
in popularity this year.
And with each new
model that arrives, it seems the OEMs have added a mix of features or
options previously unavailable on trucks. This approach has helped turn
trucks into the hottest market segment in the land. As might be expected,
zooming truck sales have resulted in zooming profits, too.
So now it appears
various foreign manufacturers are finally getting serious about challenging
this domestic monopoly on trucks, with a barrage of luxury trucks designed
to shift those sales - and profits - in their direction.
will be building big trucks, and when will they arrive? Will domestic
automakers be ready, or will they be caught flat-footed? Will the interest
in luxury trucks continue to grow, or will it shrivel up at the first
signs of an economy downturn? What can, and will the aftermarket do to
prepare for this deluge of new products?
Let's take the questions,
one at a time.
nameplates will definitely be gracing the flanks of truck from Nissan,
and possibly Mercedes and Volkswagen. BMW is also a
but not a certainty. By handing over Land Rover to Ford, it's
clear BMW will be building more variations of its X5 "All
Activity Vehicle." At the recent New York Auto Show, BMW board
member Helmut Panke promised an entry-level X3, along with
design expert, Mark Stehrenberger says the opportunity to
build a luxury truck
is currently underway at
BMW's California design studio, with input from Germany. He
doesn't a expect a styling revolution, but rather a design
that's in keeping with the BMW family "look." He also says
to look for the modified 4.5-liter V-8 engine from the X5
under the hood, along with electronic traction control
to build a full-size pickup was also announced in New York, but no details
regarding styling direction, design philosophy or production volumes was
According to analyst Jim Hall at AutoPacific in Ann Arbor, MI, "Nissan
could be an emerging player in this market, against arch-rival Toyota,
but I think they have to be careful how they do it. Renault is calling
the shots now, and trying to strengthen the Nissan name. They'll also
be able to pull a full-size SUV off the same platform, to compete against
the Toyota Sequoia coming this fall.