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Auto blogTue, 11 Jun 2013 11:01:00 EST
We've said it before, but bears repeating: Pickup trucks are the financial engines of America's automakers. Good thing, then, that the segment is in rude health - in fact, Automotive News is suggesting that pickup truck sales are arguably healthier than they were pre-recession, even though the segment's volume is still significantly down from where it was before the bottom fell out of the US economy. That's because per-unit profits on full-size trucks are skyrocketing, outpacing the industry's average price increases by more than double since 2005. According to data from Edmunds, the average transaction price of a full-size pickup is now $39,915 - a heady increase over the $31,059 average price in 2005 - a gain of over 8 percent after inflation is factored in.
Just how important are trucks to automakers' bottom lines? Automotive News quotes a Morgan Stanley analyst as saying the Ford F-Series is responsible for 90 percent of the company's 2012 profits, and General Motors isn't far behind, with the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra twins chipping in about two-thirds of the automaker's earnings.
Automotive News points out that Detroit's automakers now have the money to invest in modernizing their full-size truck offerings, in part because they don't have the same overhead and legacy costs that pushed General Motors and Chrysler into bankruptcy. Certainly, the pickup segment has seen a lot of innovations as of late, including turbocharged V6s, coil-spring rear suspensions and active aero. Those improvements in important areas like fuel economy and ride comfort have given existing pickup buyers new reasons to upgrade. In addition, automakers are piling on the tech and luxury goodies, creating more and more high-content, high-profit models like the Ford F-150 King Ranch, Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn and Chevrolet Silverado High Country (shown).
Our intrepid spy photographers have caught prototypes for a new Fiat Doblo. Now we know what you might be thinking (particularly if you didn't take note of the headline): why would we care about an automaker conducting a facelift on a European cargo van? Normally we wouldn't, only the Fiat Doblo has another name, under which it will be shortly be sold here in America: Ram ProMaster City.
Announced just months ago, the ProMaster City is the smaller counterpart to the Ram ProMaster, which itself is also a rebadged cargo van from Fiat Professional. Think of it as a Chrysler version of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect lineup - European vans being brought Stateside by automakers that operate on both sides of the Atlantic.
But despite the official announcement of the vehicle's pending arrival, we still haven't seen the PMC yet. The disguised Doblo prototypes pictured here appear to be wearing a completely new front end and some cosmetic revisions to their tail ends, too. We can't see anything in the interior, but the fact that it was completely covered up suggests that Fiat is working on overhauling that, as well.
After a rather successful foray with a Red Wings edition of the Ram 1500 last year - some 3,000 units sold - the truck brand is both re-upping its relationship with Detroit's hockey powerhouse and considering expansion into other sport franchises.
Ram announced last month that it would carry on its partnership with the Red Wings throughout the 2012-13 NHL season. The company will not offer a special edition version of the 2013 Ram, due in part to the strike-shortened NHL season. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Ram boss Fred Diaz called the Red Wings partnership an experiment that "worked out so incredibly well, we're looking at the possibility of doing other things with other sports."
Diaz doesn't see Ram doing deals with entire leagues, but does think that other teams and cities, with a similar "rabid fan base" could make sense for co-branding. "We'll pick our spots and our moments, " said Diaz, "and if we feel like we have a good opportunity, we'll do it."