Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota compete in the hot super truck market

Pickup trucks are hot in the auto market right now.

"That's where the whole market is shifting. Passenger car sales are going down like we've never seen them drop, but that's the way that the market is going," said John McElroy, a veteran auto journalist who was attending the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.

Once only a staple of commercial users, these days many people just want pickups as a way to get around. And if you want something hotter than a Ford F-150, there's the Raptor version, which has gotten a few upgrades for 2019. This is a factory high-performance off-roader that has become somewhat legendary in the truck world. Thanks to lots of work done to the engine and suspension systems, it'll do 100 mph across the desert floor.

Want something smaller and less expensive? Chevy offers a burly ZR2 option on its mid-size Colorado pickup. Small but stout, it's sort of a "compact Raptor" for the Chevy faithful.

Or check out the TRD Pro version of the Toyota Tundra. It has the looks, sure. But it also leverages Toyota experience in off-road racing via TRD - Toyota Racing Development. Their competition trucks have had the off-pavement chops for years, and now you can get that same tough panache for your more normal use. Oh, there's even a sweet-sounding dual exhaust for the V8 engine that makes a nice rumble.

But look around sometime. You'll see that a lot of these trucks never go off road at all. Many people buy them just for the looks and the cool factor.

Auto makers don't seem to mind that one bit, as there's a lot of profit in high-end 4x4 trucks. And demand will probably get stronger for these specialty trucks as pickups continue to win over buyers who have never owned one before. Ford can only build so many Raptors at a time, and they've been in short supply from the get-go. Dealers often attach markups to the sticker price, even though the current generation of Raptor has been out for over a year.

Other truck brands know this, hence their own specialty off-road models, like the ones from Toyota and Chevrolet. To stay ahead, Ford may even add to the selection of its new Ranger mid-size truck, with a Raptor-style version to top the regular 4x4 model.

As truck buyers are willing to pay more to have the best off-road pickup available off the showroom floor, truck makers are only too happy to oblige these days.
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