Truck wars

New heavy-duty models and light-duty diesels alter the pickup landscape.

Lawn & Landscape photo illustration (photo courtesy of GMC)

The auto industry is in a weird place in 2019 heading into 2020, and that’s a good thing for truck shoppers. Car popularity is waning quickly, forcing General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to cancel the bulk of their sedan offerings to focus on the hot-selling SUV and crossover market. But the profit center remains pickups. GM, for example, posted higher profits in the first half of the year, despite declining sales, because of the massive profitability of trucks.

So, winning over the most pickup owners is vital for profitability. That need for truck buyers has companies fighting an all-out pickup war, launching new lineups with new features. Heading into 2020, buyers have more options, a huge variety of engine choices and high-tech features to make standard work tasks easier. It’s likely that some price competition will be prominent, too.

Ford F-150.

Ford’s most popular pickup underwent a mild redesign for the 2018 model year, so few major changes are expected for the 2020 model other than the availability of a 3L diesel V-6 that was introduced for the 2019 model but had limited availability in its launch year.

Power, fuel efficiency, and a wide variety of powertrain options are the F-150’s main selling points.

Ford Super Duty.

Ford’s Super Duty pickup line is redesigned for the 2020 model year, adding more power, new engines, a new transmission and several new gadgets. The goal: maintain the company’s dominance of the work truck world. The company’s Pro Trailer Assist system for hooking up trailers gets more sophisticated, autonomously positioning the truck trailer hitch over the ball. A reverse guidance feature helps drivers avoid jackknifes and accidents by correcting approach angles, and more versions of the truck will include WiFi capabilities.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500.

General Motors’ pickups were completely redesigned for the 2019 model year, so few upgrades are coming for the 2020 model year outside of colors and interior options. Throughout 2019, the truck has gained sales and market share with more power and unique features. The Sierra truck line, for example, unveiled a multi-piece tailgate that can act as a step into the truck bed, a distance extender to haul longer loads or a workstation. The optional diesel engine gets slightly better fuel economy than Ford’s.

Chevrolet Silverado HD/GMC Sierra HD.

As with Ford, GM’s heavy-duty line is new for 2020, and the truck takes the towing crown. Pickup marketing is a numbers game – the most power and performance tends to win. So, the 35,500-pound tow capacity for a properly equipped truck topping Ford by 500 pounds will matter in commercials and to some buyers. The lineup has fewer engine offers than Ford’s Super Duty line, but the power range offering should be suitable for most buyers.

Magic truck: Automobile manufacturers are turning around declining profits with new trucks.
Photo courtesy of RAM

RAM 1500.

Stop me if this is sounding familiar. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ mainstream pickup was redesigned for 2019, making the addition of a light-duty diesel engine option for the 2020 model year. And, like the Ford and GM engines, it’s a 3L model. However, the FCA model boasts V-8 level, heavy-duty statistics, making it a tough option to ignore for people who want to maximize work capacity without moving up to the larger vehicle class.

RAM Heavy Duty.

FCA unveiled its commercial line for the 2019 model year, and no major changes are expected for 2020. Last year, it took the torque crown in the pickup world, crossing the 1,000 pound-feet of torque that all of the major producers have been approaching for years. The Cummins engine features a compacted graphite iron (CGI) engine block that required massive upgrades at the Indiana factory that produces it because the material is so much harder than traditional cast iron.

The author is editor of Today’s Motor Vehicles, a sister publication of Lawn & Landscape.

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