Forget hybrids and small, fuel-frugal cars when you’re in Texas. The Lone Star State, where I spent five days last week, loves big, gas-guzzling pickup trucks. The number of trucks of various nameplates and ages seen on the road or parked at shopping centers is so ubiquitous that I just had to go around taking snapshots of them.
The pickups I saw in Dallas and Plano were not compact trucks like the Ford Ranger or the Mazda B-Series or the Toyota Hilux that are sold in Manila, but full-size and heavy-duty crewcab models powered by V8 engines like the Ford F-150 and F-250, Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram 1500, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra and Tacoma and Nissan Titan. Texas, after all, is the biggest of the 48 contiguous states of the United States of America, so everything is bigger in Texas, they like to say.
What’s more, Texas is currently enjoying an oil boom, having produced 41.1 million crude oil barrels by November 2012, up about 73 percent compared to the year-ago period. In 2011, Texas produced one million barrels of crude oil per day on the average. When I was in Plano, the average price of gasoline was $3.59 per gallon. Since one US gallon equals 3.8 liters, that comes to 0.94 US cents per liter or 38.73 Philippine pesos per liter at the $1=P41 exchange rate.
MAVERICK. With all its advantages, no wonder Texas seems to display a confrontational, maverick attitude toward the world as implied by its slogans and mottos such as “Don’t mess with Texas” and “We don’t call 911 in Texas” (with the image of a revolver) and Davy Crockett’s quote: “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.” There was even one sidewalk sign showing a cocked revolver pointed at passersby with the ad copy: “GUN PERMITS. One Day Classes.”
Given this macho culture, pickup trucks are naturally very popular as proven by sales and registration data showing that 20 percent of all pickup truck sales in the United States come from Texas. But, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles warns, Texas also tops in pickup truck thefts with nearly 100,000 cars and trucks stolen each year. The top three vehicles most often stolen are the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Dodge Ram 1500. The stolen trucks are taken into Mexico and then used to transport human and drug contraband back into the United States on a one-way basis. These trucks offer cargo capacity, back-road capability and perfect camouflage running along with many pickup trucks on the roads of Texas. In most cases after the contraband has been delivered, the truck is abandoned and often burned.
BEST-SELLING. Further evidence of the immense popularity of pickups is that the Ford F-Series isn’t only the best-selling vehicle in America, it has been up there for 35 years. While there are only six full-size light-duty and three heavy-duty pickups on the market, these nine account for 11 percent of all automobile sales in the United States. That is impressive since more than 200 models account for the other 89 percent. It’s not surprising that Toyota’s San Antonio, Texas, truck plant, which began producing full-size pickups in 2006, set a production record in 2012. GM’s plant in Arlington, Texas, has operated for nearly 60 years and is still counting.
Why is the pickup truck so popular in Texas and for that matter, in America? Is it the capability, the brawn, the possibility of adventure? According to experts and observers of the social scene quoted by Website writer Kirk Bell, it’s all of the above and more. “They are so functional and capable,” says one. “The fact that it has an empty cargo bed makes it a kind of blank canvas which can perform any kind of task.”
ENABLER. “We look at trucks as an enabler,” says another. “It allows us to do things you really can’t do with other vehicles.” There is also a practical reason: “The pickup truck is very much a part of America. It’s connected with the idea of a man going out to work hard and create his own path. The truck is a tool to do that.”
The pickup truck is also a tool for play, points out another. The cargo bed can haul fishing, hunting and camping equipment. Available 4-wheel-drive allows the truck to go anywhere and the trailer hitch allows owners to tow their toys. Some people choose pickups for everyday transportation even if they don’t use them for work or hobbies. I was told that in the northeastern part of the United States, compact pickup trucks are as popular as full-size ones in Texas.
The 10 best-selling pickups in America last January were reportedly the 1) Ford F-Series; 2) Chevrolet Silverado 3) Dodge Ram (the 2013 Ram with 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine was named 2013 Truck of the Year by Motor Trend magazine); 4) GMC Sierra, the Chevy Silverado’s twin; 5) Toyota Tacoma; 6) Toyota Tundra; 7) Nissan Frontier; 8) Chevrolet Avalanche; 9) Nissan Titan; 10) Honda Ridgeline.