Survey eases fears of pickup cannibalization




LOS ANGELES — As FCA US and Ford Motor Co. prepare their returns to the midsize pickup segment over the next several months, a survey suggests consumers are taking a detailed look at the offerings and that new midsize pickup customers may migrate from some surprising segments.

The survey of 1,460 current vehicle shoppers — conducted in mid-November by Autolist.com in response to the coming introduction of the Jeep Gladiator and Ford Ranger — found that 62 percent of those polled would either “definitely” consider a new compact or midsize pickup or “probably” buy one, compared with 33 percent who weren’t interested.

Key findings

Autolist.com surveyed 1,460 current vehicle shoppers about compact and midsize pickups.

  • 80% say smaller pickups have improved over previous offerings.
  • 62% overall would consider or are considering buying a compact or midsize pickup.
  • Just 19% of full-size pickup owners would consider downsizing.
  • The Toyota Tacoma has the highest name recognition among smaller pickups (86%).
  • Utility of the bed is the biggest why-buy.
  • Poor fuel economy is the biggest hurdle to purchase.

The survey also found that the greatest pool of potential new buyers is likely to be among sports car and coupe owners, while the least interested shoppers for smaller pickups were owners of full-size pickups.

Autolist says 38 percent of owners of sports cars or muscle cars would “definitely” consider buying a compact or midsize pickup, along with 33 percent of coupe owners. Meanwhile, just 19 percent of owners of full-size pickups shopping for new vehicles said they would consider the smaller trucks.

If the survey’s findings are representative of the overall buying pool, it would be great news for automakers selling big and small pickups. The Detroit 3 killed their midsize pickup offerings at different points years ago, in large part because they felt the smaller pickups — with thinner margins — were cannibalizing potential sales of more profitable full-size pickups.

But if car or crossover owners are willing to dip a toe into the midsize pickup segment, while full-size pickup buyers remain where they are, that would be a recipe for greater profitability across the board.

“We’re about to enter a golden era for lifestyle trucks,” said Chase Disher, chief analyst at Autolist.com.

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