Trucks show luxury surge in auto show hits

John Gilbert

 Ford F-150 Super Duty. Photo credit: John Gilbert
 Ford F-150 Super Duty. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Trucks, trucks and more trucks. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Auto Show has trucks of all shapes and sizes, from monster diesels to compact crossovers, and since the definition of a truck has been shattered by a new vernacular, we’re going to have to concede that the show promoters were correct in claiming that 82 percent of all vehicles sold in Minnesota were trucks.

That must include a raft of compact crossovers, which actually make the most sense as we transition fully from cars that are sedans to trucks that are pickups, SUVs, crossovers and even little things with all-wheel drive.

They called it a Truck Summit, and show promoters, who are operating through this weekend of March 14-15, are actually acting as though we’ve got an exclusive here, that trucks are taking over for cars in daily lives of normal consumers.

The fascinating thing about our fascination with all things trucklike is that every manufacturer claims superiority, sometimes in the same critical area of comparison. You will hear Ford proclaim the F-150 the leading seller in the country, and you will hear Chevrolet claim the Silverado is the top seller in Minnesota, while the folks at Ram just sit back and smile about their own success in the marketplace and their new designation -- by no less than cars.com — that the Ram 1500 pickup has been named the “Luxury vehicle of the year” for 2020.

But the truck folks also claim the most towing capacity,. the largest hauling tally, and the most power of all. Now, they all can’t be right of course, but we’ll leave the hotly contested place up to the consumers who can come to the auto show, at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and kick the tires of every car and truck sold in the area and make their own decisions.

We’ll just try to offer the guidance of having driven most, if not all, of the new trucks, and cars as well.

GMC 2500 DuraMax diesel. Photo credit: John Gilbert
GMC 2500 DuraMax diesel. Photo credit: John Gilbert

The National Truck Summit kicked off the auto show by putting on over three hours of discussions with industry executives. Jay Sacket talked first; he’s the executive program manager of Toyota. A panel discussion followed with Sacket joining JATO Dynamics president Matt Weiss, and Erin Klepaski, senior vice president of Auto Sales Alliance. Next up was Tim Stoehr, regional product line manager of Ford, then Marjk Boyadjis, from Global Technology. And finally, interiuo9r designer Ryan Nagode from Ram.

The fact that trucks are taking over the place sedans have always held in our hearts, as well as our bank accounts, is not news. It was news 10 years ago, and 5 years ago, when it was breaking through. The news now is that while trucks — and SUVs — hold a clear majority over cars in total sales, the figure of 82 percent in Minnesota is amazing. As my good friend David Boldt, from Texas, wrote, that no other state comes close to Texas in the purchase of trucks, with the Lone Star State selling over 100,000 Ford F-150s, in fact.

I’ve always maintained that our culture for favoring what we favor means that Chevy guys don’t buy Fords, Ford guys wouldn’t consider a Chevy, and while they’ve been arm wrestling, Dodge’s Ram brans has made the biggest impact on the truck market.

 Ram Heavy Duty 6.4 Hemi. Photo credit: John Gilbert
 Ram Heavy Duty 6.4 Hemi. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Ram's luxury interior. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Ram's luxury interior. Photo credit: John Gilbert

The Ram 1500 has passed the Silverado for the first time ever to stand a solid second only to the F-150, and since all of the Big Three’s big trucks are similar enough in towing and hauling to all claim superiority, there must be something special about the Ram. And there is. It’s the interior. When Fiat took over Chrysler to form FCA, for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Italian company pushed a stylish flair through the entire corporation, and while Jeep has benefitted greatly, Ram trucks have soared with interiors that rival luxury cars in their attention to detail and the refinement of fabrics and trim features.

There is still time, to take a drive down Interstate 35 and take inn the auto show, and to whet your appetite, we’re supplying an array of photos of what you might want to check out. In fact, we’re showing 14 views of what you can see all in one place at the show.

First off, the Ford pickup remains the king, and we’re showing the Super Duty, bigger than full size, if that makes sense. Then there’s the GMC 2500 DuraMax diese — the one with the trick tailgate that features a drop-down step for easy access, which causes the folks in the TV commercial to have their jaws drop in amazement, meaning they haven’t seen a Ford tailgate, which has had that feature for over a decade. Next up is the Ram, and it is the monster Ram with dallies and all and a 6.4-liter Hemi, and with it, you’ll see the rich leather interior of the Longhorn trim package, flanking the foot-tall navigation screen that is the size of a full iPad and just as useful.

Chevy Silverado 1500. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Chevy Silverado 1500. Photo credit: John Gilbert

The Chevy Silverado prances into view in bright red, looking good even if it has slipped to third place among the Big Three. 

Toyota Tacoma TRD-Pro. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Toyota Tacoma TRD-Pro. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Tacoma snorkel ingests snow, too. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Tacoma snorkel ingests snow, too. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Midsize trucks have made a big comeback, too, and the reliable Toyota Tacoma remains a favorite for fitting just about anything you might need a truck for. This one is the TRD-Pro, which is a cut above the excellent TRD, and you can tell it by the huge snorkel that rises up along the right front pillar to remind you that when you thrash through desert sane, you needn’t worry about sand getting into the air intake. Of course, it also might work in snow, and whether it does or doesn’t, I thought the picture after a snowstorm was worth it.

Jeep Wrangler, an SUV class of its own. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Jeep Wrangler, an SUV class of its own. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Where, in your lexicon, does the Jeep Wrangler fit? Is it a car, a truck, an SUV, or a unique vehicle capable of off-roading to places no sane driver would take another vehicle.