With soaring fuel prices, concerns about the environment, and a poor housing market, some critics are predicting the death of the body-on-frame pickup truck. I’m not convinced the truck will die so easily.
I’ve always liked trucks. I currently own two of them: a 1989 Ford F-250 with a diesel engine and a 1985 Toyota that’s in the process of getting the venerable 22RE four-cylinder. Each truck has a specific purpose.
When my Toyota is running, I enjoy taking it off-road and pushing its limits. The truck is lifted a little and rides on 35-inch tires. I wouldn’t need a truck for off-roading, but the slightly longer wheelbase (when compared with Jeep’s ubiquitous Wrangler) has some advantages when climbing hills. The bed also allows me to carry more gear and tools than a Wrangler’s tiny cargo area could dream of holding.
The Ford gets used for towing and hauling heavy loads. I recently put 48 sheets of 4×8 drywall in the bed and it didn’t seem to affect the truck at all. You might be able to fit a sheet of drywall or plywood in a minivan or SUV, but you’re not going to be able to get 48 of them crammed in there. Since I have an 8′ bed, I can close the tailgate with all 48 sheets of drywall in the back. Sorry Ridgeline owners, your unibody roots won’t allow this sort of load.
Of course I’m not commuting in these trucks. That would be overkill. I’d balance out the big trucks with something like a Hyundai Accent or a Nissan Versa for daily driving if I were looking for a commuter car right now. Volkswagen’s diesel Jetta will be another solid choice once it finally goes on sale.
Some people will give up their full-size trucks and move to a station wagon or a smaller unibody vehicle with some sort of bed, like a Honda Ridgeline or Pontiac G8 Sport Truck, but not everyone will be able to downsize like that. A Ridgeline couldn’t tow like my diesel and the Sport Truck is more suited to moving a new TV set than a bed full of gravel. Still, as a truck enthusiast, I’m eager to see what sort of car/truck hybrids will survive in the U.S. market.