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High gas prices may be giving consumers monster headaches, but automakers are betting that hasn’t curbed their appetite for monster-size trucks.
The Associated Press reported that auto companies are using the Chicago Auto Show to introduce their new lines of big pickups. The media preview began Wednesday (Feb. 8) and the show is open to the public Feb. 10-19.
Tom Libby, senior director of analysis for the Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power & Associates, said the full-size pickup segment has been steady even as sales of sport utility vehicles have plummeted.
“There really is no substitute for a full-size pickup,” Libby said. “People who want that functionality can’t find it anywhere else.”
Large pickup sales were flat between 2004 and 2005, while large SUV sales were down 18%, according to Autodata Corp. Luxury pickups – the Cadillac Escalade EXT, the Lincoln Mark LT and the Hummer H2 SUT – saw sales spike 23% last year.
Libby said the pickup segment is attractive to automakers because it’s stable, it has relatively few players and it has the most loyal customers. As SUV sales fall, automakers also have found that luxury pickups can take up some of the slack in profits.
One of the higher profile big trucks being unveiled in Chicago is the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche, which goes on sale this spring. GM says it was the first to combine the comfort of an SUV with the cargo space of a truck when it launched the Avalanche in 2002.
This time around, the Avalanche has General Motor’s new full-size SUV platform, which gives it improved fuel economy, more precise steering and a quieter interior. The company is hoping the 2007 model can revive Avalanche sales, which fell 21% last year as newer competitors like the Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra grabbed market share.