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Old 09-30-2017, 05:41 AM   #1
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US/Canada #1 Segment

Full-size, half-ton pickup trucks dominate US and Canadian markets. To illustrate this point, the Toyota Camry sedan is the number one selling, new passenger car sold in the U.S. and has held that position for many, many years, but Toyota sold less than 1/2 the number of Camrys' in 2016 as Ford sold F-series trucks. In addition, Chevy Silverado and it's sibling GMC Sierra (same boned truck with a few different outer panels and different nameplates) combined to also nearly double sales of the Toyota Camry. Chevy Silverado by itself, again counting the over and under 8600 GVWR trucks together came in a couple hundred thousand more than Camry, the latter of which was out or about 389,000 units and the former was at or about 575,000 units. To be fair though, the pickup manufacturers do not publish separate numbers for 1/2 ton versions and the heavy, light-duty versions of their trucks (some versions have six wheels), and they really should be different segments, but are not counted up that way. The number three selling on-road passenger vehicle in 2016 in the U.S. was the Ram pickup truck, and FCA sold about 100,000 more of them than Toyota sold Camry. But don't feel sorry for Toyota, they sell a full-size Tundra in U.S. and Canada, and although they sell far fewer units than the Big Three, these trucks represent huge margins for all the companies who sell them, because the higher-end configurations and trims are very popular. At the low end, however, considering the amount of utility, these full-size pickup trucks can have amazing value...As low as $27K MSRP, it's just that, for some reason, a lot of Americans by and large, prefer big and bulky and luxurious pickup trucks. I don't fit that mode. I got the smallest and near least luxurious one I could find for the best price that met my engine refinement requirement.

Full-size trucks do not always dominate to the same degree in US/Canada as they have been lately. Low gas prices and a growing economy have a lot to do with how well they are dominating. The U.S. economy enjoys both situations at this time, and pickup sales are as hot as they've ever been over the last few years. The manufacturers who compete for 1/2-ton sales include General Motors with two nameplates (Chevrolet and GMC), Ford, FCA, Toyota, and Nissan, although it would be fair to say that the latter is fledgling to some degree compared to the others in the North American pickup truck market.

For many, many years, this segment, despite its success, has been plagued with slow and limited reinvestment into the product lines with the latest and greatest automotive technologies, especially as it relates to introducing and marketing new and advanced power train technologies and part or the reason is that the customer bases tend to like the "tried and true and proven" engines to power them (small block V8, naturally-aspired, gas engines stolen from the muscle car back in the first muscle car era). Much of the customer base feel this is the only suitable type of engine for a pickup truck, even though the heavier class tractor trailers which are business driven enjoy the most advanced powering technologies. I like to call it the Harley Davidson effect. People get a mindset that older is better. One of the fallouts from this customer-driven strategy is near stagnant fuel economy movement. As an example, I owned a 1989 F150 that was estimated at 15/19 city and hwy mpg and 28 years later, some brands have the same configured pickup with the same city rating and only slightly higher hwy rating, although the HP rating has more than doubled. Power and torque and efficiency have improved significantly, but until recent years nearly all the efficiency improvements via technology, have gone to improve performance and capability. From the mid-nineties until around 2010 pickups where getting bulkier, taller, heavier, much more powerful and capable but with really no loss in FE, and I guess that's a pretty good technological achievement. However, since 2015 Ford Motor Company has taken off mostly alone, in a different direction and only FCA's Ram has offered anything even close with one diesel offering. What is odd about this phenomenon is that this segment tends to be very brand loyal, and although one would think that Ford's strategy would either result in gained market share or lost market share; customers seem to follow their manufacturer despite their strategy and all are still keeping roughly the same share of the pie year over year.

Below is a list of power train options by manufacturer for 2018 (half-ton only) that illustrates how Ford, by comparison, has gone nuts versus the rest of the segment. As many know, Ford also went out alone and changed all the body panels to aluminum for weight savings, which so far has not been followed by any competitor.

As shown below, Ford still offers basic, and traditional power trains comparable to the competition so as not to lose market share or suffer a cost disadvantage versus the competitions basic offerings. In addition though, they have introduced and added two advanced fuel saving choices with high performance and in the Spring of 2019, plan on offering an advanced diesel choice for further fuel saving choice to their customers that will assuredly have near class-leading torque. It is notable that Ford has been very successful with these advanced choices for market penetration, which now make up over 50% of F150 sales but it is likely that Ford has spent much more developmental monies than their competitors and this is a strange phenomenon in such a competitive segment. In other words, Ford is reinvesting this windfall of profits back into their product, and the other brands have not been following suit. This sort of thing rarely happens in a market or segment so important to all players involved.

When Ford's diesel arrives next Spring, this will give them a total of six power train choices when counting both the standard output 3.5 Ecoboost and the high output 3.5 Ecoboost found in only the Raptor pickup truck. The most choices anyone else offers is four by GM if you count a newly-introduced version of the 5.3L V8 that includes eAssist. Also notice how Ford leads all engine categories with respect to mpg except for the one Ram diesel choice which is the current champ of the 1/2-ton segment. It is also notable that the other brands who offer advanced and different type choices: Ram and GM, they offer them in very limited configurations and trims, whereas Ford so far offers all their engine and transmission choices in many configurations and trims including on the low-end of the price spectrum. This strategy by Ford, however, will almost assuredly not extend to the diesel when it arrives due to the high cost of a diesel marketed for US and Canada.

Base Engine low-cost, low vol. engine marketed to fleets/low end market
Ford F150 - 3.3V6 NA: MPG 19 city / 25 hwy - 22 combined.
GM 1500s - 4.3V6 NA: MPG 18 city / 24 hwy - 20 combined
Ram 1500s - 3.6V6 NA: MPG 17 city / 25 hwy - 21 combined
Tundra - No offering
Titan - No offering

V8 Naturally Aspired Engine Historically the volume dominator-all brands
Ford F150 - 5.0 NA: MPG 17 city / 23 hwy - 20 combined
GM 1500s - 5.3 NA: MPG 16 city / 23 hwy - 19 combined
Ram 1500s - 5.7 NA: MPG 15 city / 22 hwy - 17 combined
Tundra - 4.6 NA: MPG 15 city / 19 hwy - 16 combined
Titan 5.6 NA: MPG 15 city / 21 hwy - 18 combined

Advanced Fuel Saving / Performance Enhanced Engine Option
Ford F150 - 2.7V6 TT: MPG 20 city / 26 hwy - 22 combined
Ford F150 - 3.0V6TDiesel: MPG ??? * coming Spring 2019
GM 1500s - 5.3V8 eAssist: MPG 18 city / 24 hwy - 20 combined
Ram 1500s - 3.0V6TDiesel MPG 21 city / 29 hwy - 24 combined

Higher Capability Engine Option Choice (max towing, etc)
Ford F150 - 3.5V6 TT: MPG 18 city / 25 hwy - 21 combined
GM 1500s - 6.2V8NA : MPG 15 city / 21 hwy - 17 combined
Tundra - 5.7V8NA : MPG 13 city / 18 hwy - 15 combined

Higher Sport Performance Optional Engine
Ford F150 - 3.5V6TT HO: MPG 15 city / 18 hwy - 16 combined

* Advanced transmissions not included data, but it should be noted that FCA's Ram and GM' Silverado and Sierra have 8 speed transmission choices on some models, but that with respect to GM's 8 speed, those models actually represent worse mpg estimates than the standard 6 speed and the higher of the two transmissions with respect to mpg were posted above. It's also notable that for 2018, which is the data represented where available, all Ford F150s are mated to a new 10-speed transmission except for the base, 3.3L, which is a six speed.

One other notable point. There is great debate among pickup truck enthusiasts just like with respect to passenger car enthusiasts about the "worth" of Ford's strategy for fuel savings via direct injection and turbo charging in the "real world", which is a strategy of other motor companies but seems to be Ford's answer to everything lately. Many believe through experience or reading reviews that downsizing and adding turbo charging is not a worthwhile endeavor for saving fuel, because, as many of you already know with respect to a spark-ignition engine that, when air is added via turbo or super charging fuel must likewise be added to maintain roughly the same ratio and therefore, it is not worth the effort. I do not totally discount that theory but do believe there is a happy medium of the "right" displacement for a specific vehicle size and weight where their can be a benefit, and while Ford may not have found that sweet spot with respect to some of their car models; they've seemed to hit it just right withe their two choices on the F150. I can add this from personal experience...I own a standard cab, 2WD, short bed F150 with the smaller Ecoboost engine. I drive it nice and easy, letting the torque drive the truck which is a nice refinement advantage of this engine type in my opinion; it gives the big engine feel without a big engine, and I'm averaging 23.5 mpg versus an estimate of 19 city and 26 hwy for my truck in my mostly-highway commute; I can exceed the city rating of 19; usually reaching around 20 on a warm and calm day, and on the highway, after the first ten thousand miles, I've been able to meet the 26 mpg hwy rating. Through the years, I have owned and driven at work many, many half-ton pickups with the smaller and less-appointed configurations and trims of different brands and none of them have come within 4.5 mpg of my current pickup truck. I've not had the pleasure of trying out the Ram Ecodiesel, which I'm sure in it's least configuration would do much better than even my truck, but that least Ram Ecodiesel would have cost me thousands more in U.S. dollars. I added the little Ecoboost to my truck for a mere $495 after the incentive. Incentives are rarely available with diesels in North America. My little Ecoboost-powered truck ride up grades without downshifting better than NA V6s and even better than most V8s. On the other hand, the naysayers make a good point. When more performance is needed out of my truck, it does have a more detrimental effect on my mpg and that's where the small V8 that Ford previously built and even possibly the current 5.0 V8 may have out shined my little Ecoboost with respect to mpg. So I guess it depends on the application; how one likes to drive; and what version of pickup one owns that determines how much fuel this strategy can save and to what extent. It also depends on what engine size the manufacturer decides to mount in a specific vehicle. If the result is too much boost, too often, via too small displacement,it will result in too much gas consumption all the time. If the displacement is too large for the vehicle, then they did not maximize the technology for the most gain. But if they hit it just right, like Ford did with the 2.7 liter, at least for the smaller configured 1/2-tons, then there can be worthy benefit. For 2018, Ford has given the 2.7 even more torque, even lower on the tachometer; now at 400 ft-lbs @ 2750 RPM (equal peak torque to the 5.0 V8 but at 1750 RPM lower). They added a 10-speed mate and dual fuel injection (previously direct injection only) city rating is up by 1, and I think this tweaking may help a little with real world mpg in more configurations and trims based on the specifications.

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Old 09-30-2017, 06:30 AM   #2
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Great article, gregsfc!

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Old 09-30-2017, 06:49 AM   #3
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The truck market currently is like a highway robbery, I read somewhere that the mark-up on trucks are around 15%. I occasionally come across ads from Dodge where they have a $15,000 discount on their trucks, or 25% off. Just amazing.

Ford said a few years back that they will stop making the 5.0L V-8 because the V-6 turbo is better in every way. I'm guessing that there are still a lot of people / contractors who are not willing to buy a V-6 turbo over a 5.0L V-8; and that's why Ford is still making them. My friend that just bought a brand new F-150 went with the 5.0L V-8 as well. He wants to keep the truck for at least 10 years, and a naturally aspirated engine has a lot less engine components to break down, and the fuel savings are not that much different. Plus, he said the engine has been around forever; so it should be bulletproof.

I'm a car guy, and if I was in a market for a truck, I would get the Honda Ridgeline. Who cares what anybody else thinks.
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Old 09-30-2017, 07:32 AM   #4
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My opinion is that pickup trucks, in the US and Canada are penis substitutes, the same as BMWs are in Europe. If you feel you want to show your manhood, buy a pickup.
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Old 09-30-2017, 08:48 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by JockoT View Post
My opinion is that pickup trucks, in the US and Canada are penis substitutes, the same as BMWs are in Europe. If you feel you want to show your manhood, buy a pickup.
I should imagine that comment will go down well haha! Pickups serve a purpose, and compared to other commercial vehicles like vans, they do offer good value. Never been a fan as they drive terribly and have poor safety compared with passenger cars, but I can see how they are very practical for various uses. They are also built bad, like vans, they are expected to do many miles so the bodywork was never designed to last very long. Saw an 06 Toyota pickup the other day, the sills had rust holes big enough to put your fist through.

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Old 10-02-2017, 06:08 AM   #6
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First, be careful when comparing official fuel economy numbers of old vehicles to new ones. The number on the window sticker you still might have, or in your memory, isn't likely to be like to like. The EPA tests and procedures have undergone some changes in the past decade. numbers have been adjusted to have any old to new comparison more like to like. The adjusted city fuel economy for a 1989 F150 2WD with 5L is 12mpg for all the transmission choices, and the highway ranges from 14mpg to 17mpg between the 3spd auto and 4spd auto.

Second, you've failed to mention some of the advanced technologies these trucks have. GM's cylinder deactivation has been improving through the years, and it might even be on their base engine. The 2.7 Ecoboost for Ford has had start/stop as standard equipment since introduction. The newest Equinox and Malibu have start/stop across the board, so this can likely become strand on trucks from GM and others.

The start/stop systems will go in because they give a boost to the company's CAFE numbers. CAFE is another reason Ford still keeps the V8 around. It, and the base V6, is a flex fuel engine that benefits from CAFE incentives.

I'd like to see more diesel options for these trucks, plus minivans, SUVs, and crossovers. The Colorado has one, and the Frontier will be getting one. While not full size trucks, they are plenty for what many truck buyers actually use them for. Another future option will be a F150 with a full parallel hybrid.

Small displacement turbos can save gas, but they can also really suck it down. The test cycles show their fuel saving ability, but most people drive their cars harder than the tests. As with hybrids, proper testing that better reflects real world driving are needed to keep the turbos results from exceeding consumer expectations.

A Ridgeline would meet most of my needs. I would just skip over it because of the Pilots and other Hondas I've seen towing. The independent rear does not appear to have had such a job in mind, and even what appear to be light trailers result in *** dragging, and out of camber rear wheels.

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