In the search for profits, automakers are finding a lucrative market among would-be urban cowboys: buyers of high-end pickups.
USA Today reported that Chrysler Group will add a second level of deluxe trucks to its Ram light-duty line at the Chicago Auto Show this week, the Laramie Limited, with luxury touches such as loads of stitched leather in the interior and fancy LED interior lighting.
Ford Motor already has five different high-end versions of its F-150 pickup. General Motors’ GMC has one high-end model, the Sierra Denali. All of the makers say the high end of the pickup market has been especially strong.
The full-size truck market divides at about $30,000. Below that level, pickups are commonly bought by construction workers and others who need work trucks. Above are well-heeled farmers, business people and retirees who want trucks for their towing capability — and their style. They typically load up their trucks with options and extras.
“Once the brain jumps over $35,000, $40,000 is not that difficult,” says Mark Williams, editor of PickupTrucks.com.
In 2010, only 9% of pickups sold cost more than $40,000. By last year, that figure had climbed to 13%, says Fred Diaz, CEO of Ram. Things can only get better: “As the economy continues to rebound, I think this segment is going to continue growing,” Diaz says. “I really don’t see a top end to this thing.”
The new Ram will join the Laramie Longhorn, a cowboy-themed rig introduced in 2010 that costs . The Longhorn, which costs upwards of $43,000 in the decked-out crew-cab version., was so successful from the start that Diaz says “dealers were stampeding us to produce more Despite high gas prices, he says buyers are typically using them in place of family cars.
Ford’s five high-end models range from the Lariat, base-priced at $35,010 before delivery charges, to the Harley-Davidson edition at $48,720. Along with fancy paint and badges, the models have urban cowboy comforts such as heated and cooled seats and different colors of ambient lighting.
A Lariat Limited, currently sold out, proved so popular, “we could sell double (the allocation) if we could get them,” says Pete Greiner, who runs Pete Greiner Ford in Casper, Wyo.
Together, Ford’s luxe trucks accounted for about 30% of F-150 sales last year to individual buyers, a figure that has “definitely gone up,” says Doug Scott, Ford’s Truck Group marketing manager. That’s because buyers of high-end trucks generally are more wealthy and credit-worthy, riding through the recession more easily.