Automakers cater to America’s renewed love affair with trucks

Tue Jan 13, 2015 12:33pm EST
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By Paul Lienert

(Reuters) - While General Motors Co's Chevrolet on Monday pulled the wraps off a tiny, environmentally friendly electric car called the Bolt, rival Ford Motor Co was showing off a 400-plus-horsepower pickup truck better suited to burning rubber than hauling hay.

The new F-150 Raptor has racing shock absorbers, a 10-speed transmission and the word FORD splayed across the grill.

A few steps away, Nissan Motor Co touted its redesigned Titan pickup, which will be equipped this fall with a brawny Cummins V8 diesel rated at 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is scheduled on Tuesday to reveal updated versions of its popular Ram 1500 truck, far and away the company's best-selling U.S. vehicle.

Cheap gas is rekindling American consumers’ love affair with big trucks, and automakers are eagerly expanding their truck lineups to squeeze more money out of one of the most profitable segments anywhere in the global auto industry.

"Follow the money," said Kelley Blue Book analyst Matt DeLorenzo, who said the Detroit show is focused this year on "those vehicles that are hot in the market with large margins."

And there are no hotter, higher-margin models than pickups, which fueled much of the growth in U.S. vehicle sales last year. Three of the four top-selling models in 2014 were full-size trucks: Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500.

Pickups drive profits at the Detroit Three, accounting for 90 percent and more of global pretax margins at GM, Ford and Chrysler, according to analysts.   Continued...

The 2016 Nissan Titan pickup truck is unveiled at the first press preview day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 12, 2015.   REUTERS/Mark Blinch