Canadians bought more than a million condo-sized pickups from 2015-2017.

Most popular among them, notes DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, was Canada’s best-selling vehicle, the F-Series; Ford sold 155,290 last year. What? Really?

Sure, the post-recession construction boom has put money into the pockets of Canada’s carpenters, electricians and assorted trades people. Many now drive a new rig, of course. Likewise, ranchers, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts have gone new, and in big numbers.

Above all, though, the pickup explosion fits into the broader trend in luxury vehicle sales – which have about doubled since 2000. Make no mistake, today’s pickup is a premium ride, just one capable of pulling a houseboat. How premium? The $57,199 Ford F-150 Supercrew 4×4 I just tested was tricked out with extras to $74,699.

As well, for up to half of buyers, the pickup is the family wagon of choice – like minivans were in the 1980s. The family appeal is obvious. The F-Series, Fiat Chrysler’s Ram, Chevrolet’s Silverado and their ilk have oceans of cabin room and they all put the driver up high, with great visibility through high rise-like swaths of glass.

Big trucks are safer, too. Size matters in any crash. And despite the shrinking beds – most noticeable in “crew” or four-door rigs – there are undeniable payload and towing benefits.

The pickup boom has also gotten a boost from fuel economy regulations in the United States – regulations we follow in Canada. They are based on a vehicle’s footprint or size. Generally, the larger the vehicle, the laxer the fuel efficiency target.

The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Neil notes that the footprint rule “effectively incentivizes building larger vehicles by holding them to progressively easier standards. As a result, the largest and most profitable vehicles also enjoy the lowest relative costs of (fuel economy) compliance.” This benefits Detroit automakers which are utterly dependent on pickups and SUVs (sport-utility vehicles) for revenue and profits.

Indeed, U.S.-based TrueCar notes that the F-150 is by far the most popular vehicle selling for more than $50,000 (all figures in U.S. dollars). The Ram is No. 2 and Chevy’s Silverado is No. 5. Ford says the average F-150 sells for $45,400.

Ford, we know, makes $14,000-$17,000 profit on every F-Series. And Ford brags that the F-Series generated $41.25 billion in North American revenue in 2017. Detroit is a one-product town and it’s the pickup.

But what sets pickups apart is their status as an expression of powerful social, cultural and political sensibilities. Detroit’s automakers make good pickups but the marketing is even better – marketing that positions the pickup as a metaphor for machismo and what some call “family values.” You can see this in pitches that are rife with rugged images of the so-called American “ideal.”

If you drive a Chevy pickup, you’re “like a rock.” If you drive a Ford, it’s a “way of life.” Ram pickups are “built to work” and “work the land.” This vision of the pickup as cultural icon is brought to life in Ronnie Shows’ paean to pickups and guns (

Shows, a former congressman from Louisiana, writes that “…the love of trucks is similar to the love of firearms in rural America. Trucks and guns are both deeply ingrained in my community.” If you advocate for tougher fuel economy rules, you’re attacking my way of life, argues Shows. So, keep your hands off my guns and my truck.

“I have a truck, most of my friends and neighbors have trucks, and they are integral to a culture that cherishes a lifestyle more closely tied to the land and sea,” writes Shows in

I appreciate the passion but question the wisdom of advocating for brutish gas guzzlers as a lifestyle choice. Yes, I’ll confess: commuting in the new Ford pickup was fun. For a week. On the eighth day I tired of fighting to park that rig in town, my social conscience started to nag at me, and I loathed the $115-plus fill-ups.

Liberals will never argue away the cultural and highly emotional parts of the pickup boom. Rising fuel prices, however, will do what liberal carping can never accomplish — snuff out the big rig explosion. Analysts are predicting $3-plus (US) gas in the U.S. this summer and there are signs of higher pump prices in the economic pipeline.

Expensive fuel will wound large vehicle sales, as in the past. Count on it. You can romanticize your rig, Ronnie Shows, but you will eventually find it unaffordable, even as the Trump administration dismantles Obama-era fuel economy rules.

Comments are closed.