Philip Nussel
Philip Nussel
Automotive News Online Editor

How smaller states can challenge Texas in the pickup wars

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- When it comes to selling pickups in the United States, the obvious centerpiece market is Texas. Last year, 322,000 new pickups were registered there -- or 15 percent of all 2.1 million pickups sold nationwide, according to IHS Automotive data.

Texas, in terms of sales volume and marketing panache, dwarfs all others.

But in the profitable, hypercompetitive world of pickups, can smaller states get more of the marketing action?

Texas, for all its volume power, ranked 14th in the United States in terms of pickups’ share of new vehicles registered in the state last year at 22.6 percent, IHS data show.

Wyoming, the Dakotas, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia and Mississippi ranked higher than Texas on a percentage basis last year.

West Virginia, at No. 12 with 24.2 percent, posted the highest pickup share of new-vehicle registrations of all the states east of the Mississippi River.

This kind of appetite for pickups creates opportunities and it tells automakers to make sure they look beyond Texas to measure how new pickups resonate with customers.

West Virginians, for example, don’t just want pickups. They need them for work, travel and play on the state’s very rural and rugged terrain. And for a small state’s tourism efforts, there is no better marketing than to see a new truck portrayed in national TV advertising doing its thing in your scenic, tourist-friendly state. In 2007, GMC tossed an SUV over West Virginia’s New River Gorge Bridge on a bungee cord. That was priceless exposure for both the truck and the state.

Beyond marketing exposure, a state such as West Virginia should monitor and recruit automakers that road test their trucks in rugged environments. Seems like a pretty good place to test durability, torque and towing power -- not to mention test-marketing them on the sales side.

I told dealers meeting here at The Greenbrier resort this week they should create a tag line, or brand name, for all truck-related sales, marketing and testing efforts in their state. Call it something like “West Virginia Truck Central.”

West Virginia and other states might not generate Texas-sized pickup sales, but they can stake their claims to get their piece of the pickup action.

You can reach Philip Nussel at pnussel@crain.com.

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