Fancy sports car debuts aren’t the only vehicles in the limelight at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. To a surprising degree, this year’s media preview of the North American International Auto Show turned out to be largely about pickup trucks.
That reflects big sales of the heavy haulers in the past year as the economy has improved, prompting sales to construction workers, ranchers and others who may have nursed their old trucks through tough economic times. Also this year at the nation’s most prominent auto show, there was a rich variety of truck entries.
Which were most significant? Let’s count them. Here are the trucks that got the most attention:
1. Nissan Titan. This completely redone truck has gone to the gym to bulk up for competition against the big boys, Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500.
With paltry sales last year on its Titan, Nissan easily could have walked away from the pickup market, but instead, CEO Carlos Ghosn embraced an interesting idea: Try to lure buyers who might otherwise buy heavy-duty trucks to the light-duty Titan. Many buyers may choose a truck that has more capability and fuel burn than they need because they want a diesel V-8 engine.
Nissan’s solution is to offer a Cummins diesel V-8 in the Titan and bulk up the truck’s looks in a way that it almost looks like a heavy-duty model.
2. Hyundai Santa Cruz. A interesting concept vehicle that combines SUV practicality on the front with a pickup truck rear. It’s a truck, Hyundai officials say, but one that is aimed at families who don’t need heavy hauling or towing capability. Our favorite feature: The bed can be extended by pulling it out like a cabinet drawer.
3. Toyota Tacoma. Toyota made its popular midsize truck better all around. The truck gets a more modern, 3.5-liter, V-6 engine and other improvements. Our favorite: a mount for a GoPro camera next to the rear-view mirror to let you log your adventures.
4. Ram Rebel. This pickup is getting raves from all around the world. It’s meant to be a show-off truck on the street and it’s sort of a rolling billboard for Ram. The Ram name is put in giant letters on all sides. Hemi engine option? Of course!
5. Ford Raptor. Ford owns the segment of the toughest off-road sport truck and the new one is even better. The EcoBoost V-6 engine that replaces a V-8 has more horsepower, coupled with better fuel economy, and the truck will save even more fuel with a 10-speed transmission.