Each market has its own peculiarities, that's for sure. And while globalisation has driven global products and vehicles, tastes among consumers in different countries can change dramatically.
That's certainly the case with pick-ups (or trucks, if you prefer). While SUVs are a global trend and almost every driver in the world wants one, there are other segments where popularity is not as clear in all regions.
But let's return to the case of pick-up trucks, as it is quite interesting. Their purpose is basically the same everywhere: to transport goods as easily as possible. However, the positioning and additional use given by the brands has allowed pick-ups to become a fashionable vehicle in certain markets.
This is the case in the United States, the world's second largest market for light vehicles and the largest for pick-up trucks. Last year, sales of these vehicles totalled almost 2.7 million units, almost 20% of the market share.
This market accounted for 44% of global pick-up demand. The popularity of the Ford F-150 and its rivals from General Motors(Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Canyon), and Stellantis (Ram 1500) explain these good results.
But... Why are they so popular in America and so rare in Europe? These trucks are considered a 'cool' vehicle in the United States. They are not positioned as a mere work vehicle, but as a large, comfortable, aggressive and powerful means of transport. This positioning comes after years of introducing sportier, sleeker versions that appeal to more consumers. Indeed, pick-ups are seen as useful and practical as a utility vehicle in Europe or a kei-car in Japan.
This repositioning is also taking place in other markets. For example, in Thailand, the world's second largest pick-up market, the working status is gradually being complemented by cooler versions that are sometimes closer to an SUV than a real pick-up, at least in terms of design. In fact, the ability of manufacturers to reposition their pick-ups into something more attractive is related to exterior design and interior features.
Pick-ups went from being a basic, boxy, 'workmanlike' vehicle, to becoming large, attractive pick-up trucks with the same SUV shapes in the front and luxury interiors. This is happening in all pick-up sub-segments: from small ones like a Fiat Strada to giants like the Ford F-250. They take advantage of the SUV boom to incorporate SUV design elements into a more basic frame that has even more cargo capacity.
Add to this the fact that many countries in the world still lack good road conditions, and you have a large part of the population almost forced to opt for a pick-up.
That is why they are so popular in all African nations, in many South East Asian markets and in Latin America. Last year, pick-up trucks accounted for more than 15% of light vehicle sales in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, the Philippines, Peru, New Zealand, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Iraq and many other countries.
Their worldwide popularity contrasts with their low profile in Europe. In 2022, pick-up models accounted for only 0.9% of light vehicle sales in Europe-Turkey, and this year, up to June, their market share remains at 0.87%.
As they are positioned as mere light commercial vehicles, many consumers do not consider them to be more than that. Moreover, the fact that they tend to be large does not help either. When it comes to transporting goods, the European consumer prefers a more frugal multi-space vehicle, such as a van. This is similar to what happens in Japan.
The author of this article, Felipe Munoz, is an automotive industry specialist at JATO Dynamics.