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Will Lower Fuel Prices Help Pickup Sales

Three Dollar Gas - Will It Help Trucks?

Will Lower Fuel Prices Help Pickup Sales
Posted October 6 2008 04:48 PM by Edward A. Sanchez 
Filed under: Opinions, Trend Observations

2008 Chevy Silverado

Unless you've been living in complete isolated oblivion the last few months, I don't need to belabor the fact that the U.S. and even the global economy is going through some rough times. If there's been any upside the the financial crisis, it's that the price of oil has come down to a somewhat more sane level. Even so, who would have thought several years ago that oil would be at more than $100 a barrel?

Assuming you can qualify for a car loan in this chilly lending climate, does the fact that we may be looking at an average price of $3 for a gallon of gas make you any more likely to buy a truck than when it was at close to $5 a gallon?

There are some that are predicting light truck & SUV sales will come roaring back because of lower fuel prices. Well, with almost all carmakers down double digits for September, I don't know if "roaring" is the adjective I'd use. However, a modest recovery for truck sales is a possibility.

I think a much better prospect for the recovery of truck sales is going to be the introduction of half-ton diesels starting in 2010. Granted the price-per-gallon for diesel is significantly higher on a per-gallon basis than unleaded, but so is the difference in fuel economy.

Crew Cab half-ton trucks became the family car lately for their multi-purpose capabilities, and nobody thought much of the fuel economy when gas was in the low-to-mid $2 range. The "urban cowboy" demographic of truck buyers has since nearly evaporated.

But with the prospect that full-sized trucks could get fuel economy rivaling large crossovers at around 18 city, 25 highway or thereabouts, be able to tow 10,000+ pounds, and have room for the whole family, suddenly the truck as the family car starts to make sense. Granted, the diesel option will likely run about $7,000 extra. So the high price tag could scare off some potential buyers, but those that can see the longer-term benefits may come back around.

What do you think? Does passenger-car rivaling fuel economy influence your decision whether or not to buy a truck? Would you be willing to pay the healthy premium up-front for the longer-term economic benefits? 

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