My part in America’s love affair with the pick-up truck
By Eribert Loehner in Vancouver
At a time when President Trump is lobbing economic broadsides at most of Americas trading partners, many Americans are likely not aware that there has been a duty on imported light trucks for more than a half-century.
This duty allows American automobile manufacturers to make profits significantly higher on light trucks than on smaller more fuel-efficient cars.
The impact this duty has had on manufacturer’s bottom lines, not to mention the selling prices to consumers, makes them more than happy to provide the latest gas guzzlers to customers so they can drive to the local shopping mall.
The truck beds in these privately owned pick-up trucks are usually kept empty except for a few beer cans whose contents may have been consumed months earlier.
The cans impressively rattle around in the bed while driving around corners. Few of these trucks are ever used to haul the cargo they were initially designed for, yet the demand for pick-up trucks in America’s heartland seems almost insatiable.
I come from a Canadian urban center where pick-up trucks are hopelessly out of place. They are difficult to park and maneuver, while small sporty cars can zip through traffic. Also, the fuel consumption on smaller cars won’t break the bank when they are constrained by the inevitable traffic jam.
The fuel bill for an idling pick-up truck might require an extension on your house mortgage. I could never really understand this love for pick-up trucks, and it doesn’t only afflict the male of the species either.
Rural America’s love affair with the pick-up truck
Having worked in rural America for many years I have witnessed this love for pick-up trucks firsthand. Back in 1982, when I was young, svelte and single, I worked on a project in Townsend, Montana.
While there I drove a brand new Ford Pinto, a domestic compact car that later acquired a reputation for blowing up when involved in a rear-end accident. I did not have much choice in the type of car I drove while there; it was leased by my employer.
It was known in town as “the ugly car”. I was the laughing stock of Townsend. The car was reliable and economical, but just plain mundane. It didn’t go well, or stop well, and it cornered even worse.
One day I had to return the Pinto to the local Ford dealership for a regular servicing. I was given a top-of-the-line half-ton Ford F-150 pick-up truck while the ]work was being carried out. On the way home from work with the new truck, I stopped at a highway truck-stop restaurant for dinner.
I had stopped there many times before to admire the shapely young waitresses that worked there. They, on the other hand, considered me about as attractive as dog excrement, not the least because of the ugly car I drove.
That day the waitress paused before she poured my coffee. She looked out at the fully tricked-out Ford pick-up truck in the parking lot. It was a vehicle she hadn’t seen before. “Is that yours?” she asked in wonder. “That’s a pretty nice truck you have there.”
She then became unusually chatty. Seriously? I came from a place where guys with BMWs, Corvettes or Porsches might get noticed, but not in Montana; here it was Ford pick-up trucks!
Fading back into anonymity
The next day I had to return the truck to the dealership and I picked up the fully serviced Pinto. That evening I faded back into anonymity at the truck stop.
Despite a pick-up truck’s apparent aphrodisiac qualities, I never did rent one while making other visits to rural America during my working career.
I have never owned a pick-up truck either, but it just might explain the demand for them in America’s heartland.