Chevrolet Tops U.S. Truck Buyer's List Of Brands

U.S. pick-up truck buyers prefer domestics, and GM's Chevrolet division has the strongest pull, according to the latest Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research Brand Watch. Some 56% of shoppers surveyed said Chevrolet tops their list. Ford came in second, and GMC was third.

But the quarterly survey of 273 pickup truck shoppers about brands they would consider also shows that models from Toyota and Honda get a lift from their parents' reputations for fuel efficiency and durability.

Toyota is in the midst of its largest U.S. launch in history for the 2008 Tundra pick-up, and the KBB research suggests it will need to market heavily to crack the truck market.

Ford, meanwhile, has relied on its F-150 pick-up to shore up sagging U.S. sales, but may need to look closer at GM. Its Chevrolet Silverado recently won Pick-Up Truck of the Year honors at the North American International Auto Show, and seems to be the pick-up truck buyer's model of choice, according to KBB.

Wes Brown, of IceOlogy, a Los Angeles-based consultancy, said overall brand reputation is becoming important within the pick-up market because those who are driving growth in the segment aren't loyalists, or hard-core truckers.

"The growth within the segment has been with the more casual pick-up driver, who isn't so wedded to any particular brand and instead has looked at the total package--styling, pricing, features, brand image, and respectability," he said, adding that recalls won't have an immediate impact. "The initial buyers--for the first six months--are loyalists, then brand image starts to come in."

The study also awarded the strongest pick-up brand loyalty to GMC, with second place a tie between Chevrolet and Toyota. Toyota Tundra and Honda Ridgeline ranked high for perception of their durability and fuel efficiency--factors that KBB reported were the most important among truck buyers--more important than such traditional features as towing capacity and functionality.

Toyota was perceived as having the best durability, and Honda as having the best fuel efficiency. But GMC was a close second. Dodge was a distant third with its Ram pickup. Brown notes that Toyota's decision to market the mid-sized pickup as physically indestructible with ads showing it being dropped by gigantic robotic devices will help, as does the new Tundra's aggressive, fist-like exterior design.

Still, imports hold just a sliver of the truck market. While Toyota--whose truck sales dropped a little more than 1% last year--sold 124,508 Tundras in 2006, General Motors sold more than 1 million pickups. Ford, meanwhile, sold 901,463.

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