As many of us are known to do, I was looking over some current auto news and read a piece on the newest generation of luxury-inspired pickup trucks. Crossing over into the territory of six-figure price-tags is nothing new with the automotive industry, but I’m a little torn on the inherent dichotomy between image and intent when we’re talking about trucks.
Take Ford’s F-450 for example. With a 15-ton max payload, it’s a true beast. But is the owner of such a vehicle going to actually put it to use? Or is it more likely that they want to sit back and enjoy the hordes of commoners, approaching with caution, in the hopes of worshipping their majestic truck-shaped limousine?
Over the last four decades, truck ownership has evolved significantly. In fact, it’s safe to say that (within that time period) truck ownership evolved more than it had in the six decades prior. For well over half a century, pickups were the automotive fare of farmers and laborers. If a family owned such a vehicle, it was likely that either (i) one of those professions drove the family’s income, or (ii) they required a utilitarian vehicle for household chores.
With the 80’s came the surge of home improvement enthusiasm, with hordes of do-it-yourselfers splitting the difference between Bob Vila-level competency and Tim ‘The Toolman’ Taylor-level comedy. Needless to say, they soon realized that a Honda Prelude wouldn’t get you very far, in terms of bringing home the goods from Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Truck sales boomed. Owned by more households than ever, they became family vehicles. With a more expansive customer base came trucks’ inevitable progression towards comfort. This evolution was further bolstered by increases in available technology. In turn, truck makers became less focused on the simplicity of getting a job done, utilizing trucks to offer something for everyone.
Too Much For Too Many?
A few paragraphs back, we mentioned the ‘ultra’ heavy-duty F-450 which is priced to start around $100,000. Ford is far from the only guilty party, though.
At the recent State Fair of Texas, RAM introduced the Laramie Longhorn Southfork variant, maxed out in the shape of a 3500 4×4 dually meg cab. Equipped with a Cummins turbodiesel engine, the RAM is priced to start around $83,110 and is not even RAM’s only offering at this price level. A 3500 in the Laramie Limited Tungsten starts around $86,000 and can easily hit $100,000.
Enter GMC and Chevy. Depending on how they are optioned either the 3500 4x4x dually variants of the Sierra or Silverado can find themselves tip-toeing into the $80,000 territory. Chevy has also mentioned the potential of a 4500 pick-up offering in the near future.
While the fact that these vehicles exist speaks for itself, each automaker attests to the existence of a very clear customer base for such offerings. They further clarify the demand, stating that each is being offered to meet the needs of those customers. This, of course, raises a question regarding the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.
We’ve all known someone like this. That person who has to have ‘the biggest, the best, the most expensive’ of everything. In most cases, it less about utilizing those possessions as intended, and more about the bragging rights; the elitist empowerment that comes from being able to say, ‘I have that’ or ‘mine is better than yours’
I was raised on a farm. My father comes from a long line of professional truck drivers. Among my friends and families, I count farmers, laborers, mechanics, and drivers just as easily as I count white-collar professionals. That said, the vast majority of people in my world own trucks and use them daily. Among them, the most expensive and heavily-equipped probably fall into the low $60,000 range. That is, of course, the anomaly. That particular friend also has a second truck, referred to as ‘the work truck’. If something needs to be hauled, you take the work truck. If you’re going out, you take the nice truck.
Think of the person who has $100,000of expendable income to spend on a truck. Perhaps they’re the type in search of bragging rights. Perhaps they just want that fancy show-piece. Either way, one thing is for sure…it is highly unlikely that the truck is being used for actual work.
Is a fifteen-ton payload necessary, if you’re not going to use it? Simple answer. No. Argue it all you want, but you’re wrong. For the majority of those who are able to buy such vehicles, they serve little purpose other than as a statement of status.
Seriously. Can We Laugh About This?
Comedian Bo Burnham does a hilarious bit about the difference between authentic country music (which possesses the integrity that makes it appreciable as an art form) and commercially-driven ‘stadium’ country music. The implication is that a number of today’s ‘country’ artists acquire their wealth, pandering to their audience by selling an inaccurate depiction of their own ‘country-ness’.
Performed as a song (in the stylings of such artists as Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney or Luke Bryan) some of the song lyrics include ‘I walk and talk like a field hand, but the boots I’m wearing cost three grand. I write about riding tractors from the comfort of a private jet.’
Back in the real world, how far off is a $100,000 truck from being the punch-line for this type of joke? Sure, people buy trucks because they like the way they look. I won’t argue that. But I’m sorry. Someone willing to shell out $100K for a truck wants to be seen in that truck more than they want to use it as it was intended…and probably because it matches their three-thousand dollar boots.
If this trend continues, who knows what the truck owner of tomorrow will look like. Chances are it’ll comes straight out of a Florida Georgia Line concert.