Texas Truck Wars

tx truck warsGeneral Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota rolled into the State Fair of Texas in Dallas with guns blazing — at each other, and as a native Dallasite, it’s been this way as long as I can remember.

Around 3 million pairs of cowboy boots visit the fair each year, which makes it ground zero in the truck and SUV marketing wars. No state comes even close in sales of trucks and SUVs than Texas, with its 803,721 registrations in 2013, according to IHS Automotive data. California was a distant second, with 662,581 registrations, IHS says.

“There’s no doubt that Texas is extremely important to Ram,” Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa said from the fair. “One out of every five trucks we produce comes here to this state.”

The nearly month-long fair that opened last Friday is considered an auto show by manufacturers, and their displays are huge. Trucks, vans and SUVs live in “The Truck Zone,” a 135,000-square-foot area.

GM, Ford and Chrysler are using the venue to showcase new models, special editions and marketing tie-ups. They are also taking pot shots at each other to put some space between themselves and the competition by stressing the attributes that make their trucks unique.

For example:

-GM aims to shoot holes in Ford’s aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 by touting the advanced high-strength steel it uses in the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. A concept truck called the Silverado Toughnology features a raw steel appearance.

“During the Silverado’s development, we evaluated all materials and chose those that would provide the best strength to support capability while still delivering strong value to customers,” said Jeff Luke, Silverado chief engineer.

-Ford is touting the technology in the 2015 F-150 and “military strength” aluminum alloy used in the truck’s body. The new truck, which arrives in December, is loaded with technology most often found in luxury cars, including an automated parking system that parallel parks the truck and an adaptive cruise control tied into the braking system that automatically slows the truck to keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. A display at the fair touts 10 of the features.

Attendees can use a crane to lift 700 pounds of weight out of an F-150 truck bed and place it on a trailer. That’s how much less the 2015 F-150 weighs than the outgoing steel-bodied model.

-Chrysler is stressing the fuel economy and capability of the hot-selling Ram truck. Ram owns the title, for now, for best highway fuel economy with gas and diesel versions of the Ram 1500 and several best-in-class towing categories.

Ram, which has won the “Truck of Texas” award twice in a row, is reminding visitors of the accolades with a big banner and a giant silver trophy on display. Ram is on a tear this year. It has been the fastest growing truck brand in 2014, and Chrysler announced plans to increase Ram output by 100 units a day, or 28,565 a year, at a plant in Warren, Mich. See specifics in a separate story below.


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