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Pickup owners might kick a few tires, but they are loyal to their brand

The Ford Atlas concept truck is lowered to the display floor on a hoist at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 15, 2013. Ford didn't bring the full-size pickup to the Toronto auto show.


Now here's a question about pickups: why can't the Japan-based auto makers "crack the code?" as auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers put it so succinctly in our talk about this year's 2013 Toronto auto show.

And why are they unlikely to make a mark in pickups for the foreseeable future? DesRosiers' take, and I agree, is that the guy – and pickup buyers are almost exclusively guys – who has been buying a Ford F-Series for decades, who's had three, four, five, six, 10 of them in his lifetime, is not going to switch. He's been pretty happy so far and sees no reason to change – and the Detroit Three know how to take care of him with an extensive and comprehensive array of large pickup offerings and configurations.

And it's the same for the Ram guy and the Chevrolet Silverado guy and the GMC Sierra guy. They're all passionately loyal to their respective brands, and in most cases, it's a case of loyalty for life. A Chevy guy is not a Ford guy and never will be.

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Okay, okay, there are exceptions. Back in the early 1990s, when the current Chrysler Group Ram brand was still the Dodge Ram pickup, Chrysler came out with a radically-styled new pickup that did win over some Chevy and Ford buyers. The Ram's North American sales in the early 1990s went from around 70,000 a year to more than 240,000 and some of those new Rammers were conquests of former Ford and GM loyalists.

But 20 years later we've settled clearly into a pickup pattern. If you're a Ford guy you may check out the Ram this year at the Toronto show, but you're not going to change – even if this Ram comes in a new heavy duty version that Chrysler boasts is "best-in-class" in just about every way. The pattern boils down to this: there are three significant full-size pickups for sale in Canada and a couple on the fringes – the Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan.

Now Toyota Canada chose not to display the new 2014 Tundra coming later this year at the Toronto auto show, and I suppose that makes sense. The Tundra plays on the edges of the full-size pickup world.

DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reports that in 2012 Toyota sold 7,241 Tundras in Canada – compared to the 106,358 F-Series trucks that Ford of Canada sold, the 67,634 Rams that Chrysler Canada sold and GM of Canada's 78,655 in combined sales of the Silverado and Sierra. Nissan Canada sold 3,499 Titans, which means if the Tundra was a fringer, the Titan barely made any mark at all.

As DesRosiers notes, if "even mighty Toyota failed to crack the code with its 2007 Tundra – the best-ever effort by a non-U.S. automaker to mimic the D3's (Detroit Three's) shopworn formula for commercial market success," then an updated Tundra and the eventual remake of the Titan is not going to change a thing with pickup buyers as a group.

The latest version of the Ram on display at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre has already won the North American Truck of the Year award and it's a very good, very functional, very fuel-efficient pickup. Later this year, GM will introduce brand new versions of the Silverado and Sierra for 2014 and not far down the road we're going to see an updated Ford F-Series for 2015 – a new truck based on Ford's Atlas concept that was shown in Detroit earlier this year.

You can have a look at the new GM pickups at this year's Toronto show. However, I was disappointed not to see the Ford Atlas on the show floor. Full-size pickups represent the third-largest new vehicle segment in Canada. They matter. So why didn't all the car companies bring their very best and brightest and most forward-looking pickups and pickup concepts to Toronto?

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For more Toronto AutoShow coverage, please click here.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More


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