What's up with pickups?
Don't look now, but the rest of the world may slowly be getting hip to the all-American pickup.
It's no secret that pickups are more popular in North America than just about anywhere else. They account for nearly one-fifth of all light vehicles sold in the United States. In some markets, such as Texas, it seems as if two out of every three vehicles you see are pickups.
There are 20 pickup nameplates sold in the United States, not counting the Cadillac Escalade EXT, Chevy Avalanche and Hummer H2 SUT. They come in all sizes, from petite, such as the Ford Ranger, to gargantuan, such as the Ford F-350. They can be an honest-to-goodness, get-your-hands-dirty work truck or a pimped-out, downtown luxury ride.
Not every culture is ready for those extremes. But small, base-model pickups have become popular in some agrarian economies in Asia, where a pickup might be the first four-wheeled vehicle owned by a family. You also see them in cities, such as Bangkok, Thailand, where it seems some people live in their trucks by parking them under highway overpasses at night.
In Europe, where pickups account for less than 1 percent of all light-vehicle sales, they have been strictly work trucks.
But that's changing. Several automakers are upgrading the pickups they sell in Europe and marketing them as sport-utility trucks, according to Automotive News Europe. These new-generation trucks are cushy. Typically they have four doors, more interior space and a softer ride.
The European pickup market is dominated by Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Ford, which sells the Ranger there. But Dodge plans to sell four-door Dakotas in Europe, and Chevrolet may attack the market with a pickup it builds in Brazil.
Before you know it, Europe will look like Texas.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at