Pandemic Prompts Pivot To Pickup Trucks

The pickup truck segment of the light vehicle market got a boost in sales thanks to the pandemic, according to research from CarGurus.

"CarGurus 2020 Pickup Truck Sentiment Study" looks at brand sentiment, which generations purchased trucks, and truck owner thoughts on EVs. 

Younger vehicle shoppers may be the reason for the shift toward pickup trucks, according to the research. Pandemic truck buyers were 24% more likely to be Generation Z or millennial.  

The study found that 26% of those who bought a pickup truck during the pandemic had not planned to before. Among them, over half were originally planning to buy a car, but decided to buy a truck instead. 

These younger truck buyers were also more likely to say that the vehicle was for road trips (40% vs. 31% of other pandemic buyers), was purchased to treat themselves (29% vs. 18%), and they were more likely to cite their stimulus check as an incentive to purchase the truck (24% vs. 15%).  



Ford seem to be especially appealing to younger truck shoppers, according to the study. Younger owners were more likely to own a Ford prior to the pandemic and were also especially likely to buy Ford during the pandemic.

The study also uncovered potential headwinds in the category.  

Affordability issues have been continually pushing owners out of the pickup truck category, with 17% of truck owners noting they probably won’t buy another truck. 

Despite new interest in pickup trucks from younger shoppers, 20% of current Gen Z/millennial truck owners said they probably won’t buy another one vs. 12% of older truck owners. Ultimately, 66% of truck owners say if their preferred brand increased prices by $10,000, they would switch brands.

“We often see in our data that younger shoppers have a passion for cars and buy more frequently,” says Madison Gross, director of customer insights at CarGurus.“However, shoppers younger than mid-30s or so are also the most budget-conscious."

There are a couple of important findings for automotive marketers, Gross says. 

“First, as the pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, trucks are positioned well to offer an escape and some fun for consumers who could use just that,” Gross says. “The second is around the importance of tech in trucks. For younger shoppers, interest in new truck technology is high, but category and brand loyalty are lower.”

Brands can earn market share by appealing to this younger generation’s excitement about vehicle technology, she says. This includes electric pickups, which will allow eco-conscious consumers to drive the truck they want without guilt or compromise.

In September 34% of current truck owners say they will probably/definitely own an electric pickup truck in the next ten years, with 23% saying the same for the next five years. These results are consistent with pre-pandemic results from February, 33% and 22%, respectively. 

Gen Z/millennial truck owners are over two times more likely to expect to own an electric truck in the next five years when compared to older truck owners (30% vs. 12%). 

The same age cohort of younger consumers are also two times more likely to consider a truck from category-newcomers like Tesla (32% vs. 14%), Rivian (11% vs. 4%) or Hummer (13% vs 6%), when compared to older truck owners.

CarGurus surveyed 1,081 pickup truck owners in September on their sentiments towards truck brands, prices, electric trucks, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among total respondents, 248 had purchased during the pandemic (from mid-April through mid-September). 

In early February 2020 CarGurus surveyed 858 pickup truck owners as an earlier iteration of this study, and benchmarked it with the one issued in September. This study has also been run in February 2019 and January 2018. 

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