...'Delux Trux' Continued, Page 3

Blackwood joins quartet of luxury trucks

Cadillac's new truck will follow the Lincoln Blackwood by about six months, but should sell in much larger volumes, thanks to higher production capabilities. Also, the Blackwood will come with several custom touches that will hold production numbers below 10,000, at least in the beginning.

The Blackwood's truck bed is actually a fancy trunk. The 4-ft. 8-in box will be covered with more than 20 sq. ft. of Wenge wood, a dark, dense wood from central Africa. The wood will have an epoxy sealant and be set off with brushed aluminum strips, both between the slats and on the sides of the bed. All will be neatly tucked beneath a lockable hard tonneau cover.

The Blackwood will be built on the same chassis, and have the same powertrain offerings as the Lincoln Navigator.

Hall confirms that the Blackwood will primarily be a niche vehicle, with production less than 10,000 units annually. "Ford can't really build many more than that for two reasons," says Hall. "First of all, it has very serious capacity constraints, and secondly, the real wood truck bed and other hand-built features will limit production."

Cadillac will turn up the volume

According to Hall, the only true luxury truck that's we're likely to see in any volumes will be the Cadillac, since it's built off of the Avalanche chassis, which is essentially a modified Suburban chassis. He sees Cadillac building 100,000 or more, once production is up and running.

However, Hall says Ford will make up the volume with other new Lincoln products. " Where Lincoln is going to expand its luxury truck stable is with SUVs. As I understand it, there are plans afoot to come out with a Lincoln version of the Explorer, as well as an entry-level Lincoln SUV, based on the new Ford Escape, which is coming out this summer," confides Hall. "Both vehicles will give Lincoln a lot more sales volume than the Blackwood will. Ford also will have the flexibility to adjust production on those, between Ford and Lincoln models, depending on market demand."

Will luxury trucks sweep the land in the next five years?

Analyst Howard Kenig, president of Automotive Information Resource, LLC thinks they will for time.

Luxury truck trend may not last

"I'll grant you that luxury trucks and SUVs are a novelty at this point, because the concept of luxury was not previously associated with these types of vehicles," says Kenig.

"But this is not the first time we've seen this sort of bandwagon mentality on the part of automakers when it comes to a hot new market trend. Back in the '80s, when the Yuppies were first beginning to make an economic impact, a great many simply had to have a European sport sedan. As a result we saw BMWs, Mercedes, Audi and Saab sales take off like a rocket.

"Those buyers showed up because buying a BMW was the trendy thing to do," notes Kenig. "Consequently, sport sedans attracted a large number of fringe buyers who were outside the core

market segment, luring buyers who normally would not purchase that kind of product, time after time.

Kenig suspects a similar market phenomenon will occur with luxury trucks.

"The market's newest kick is luxury trucks and SUVs. So a lot of people who never would have thought of buying a truck or SUV 10 years ago are now doing so, simply because they've become trendy. Like sport sedans in the 80s, luxury trucks are now a trendy segment that's beginning to yank in a large segment of marginal buyers," contend Kenig. "As before, when the trend comes to an end, this fringe group's commitment to trucks will, in all likelihood, come to an end as well."

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