Trucks have long been a symbol, at least in the U.S., of the blue-collar class whose work starts before the sun comes up and ends long after it goes down—the idealistic portrait of a self-made American, proud of their dented, rusty, dirt-splattered and aging vehicle because of its testament to their hard work. It’s basically every truck commercial ever, you know.
But modern pickups don’t quite fit that description. They’re new, shiny, packed with technology, and, odds are, the person behind the wheel is turning on the seat massagers rather than dusting the dirt off of their pants. And those high-class gadgets come at a high cost—61 percent more on average than they were a decade ago.
In recent years, it’s been hard to miss the trend of trucks in the U.S. continually getting bigger, fancier and more expensive—that is, unless one of those trucks has been blocking your view. They’ve become luxury vehicles with luxury price tags, and now, the Wall Street Journal has the stats to prove it.
The WSJ cites JD Power data in reporting that pickup buyers in America
paid an average of $44,000 for a full-size model last year, up by a ridiculous 61 percent from a decade ago. The average price for all vehicles over that same time period rose by less than half of the truck stat, going up by 28 percent to around $32,500.
On the American market, sales of new full-size trucks are, naturally, dominated by American brands. The WSJ reports that the Big Three—Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler—build more than 90 percent of the full-size pickups sold in the U.S., with Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra sales cowering in comparison. Here’s some of the reasoning behind that, via the WSJ:
Detroit’s edge in the U.S. pickup-truck market draws on a longtime 25% tariff on foreign-made trucks that has deterred competition and supported premium pricing. Barclays automotive analyst Brian Johnson has described the Detroit Three’s lock on the market as an oligopoly.
Trucks also account for a huge portion of new-car sales for the automakers dominating the segment, as we already knew. From the WSJ:
GM and Ford relied on trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-Series pickup to provide the bulk of their global profit last year, analysts say, even though those models accounted for only 10% to 15% of each company’s total world-wide sales. GM’s strength in pickups helped deliver a global operating margin of 8% last year, on par with German luxury-car makers BMW AG and Daimler AG , the parent company of Mercedes-Benz.
Ram truck sales also account for a disproportionate share of Fiat Chrysler’s bottom line, along with its Jeep brand. The company’s operating margin has climbed since the company ditched two car lines in 2016, hitting 6.1% last year.
Truck prices are rising along with their capabilities, as evidenced in part by the never-ending torque wars between American automakers—Ford debuts a truck with a certain amount of towing abilities and features, Chevrolet comes out with more, Ram tops that, then the cycle starts back over again. Then, there are all of the luxury features, like the GMC Sierra HD’s 15 camera angles or the Ford F-150’s massaging seats. All of that comes at a continuously rising price.
And, as we can see from the sales figures, that rising price is something loads of people are willing to pay.