A wave of lifestyle pickups is on the horizon. Traditionally, a pickup has been a body-on-frame, rear-drive vehicle emphasizing ruggedness and power. But early in the next decade, automakers will develop carlike pickups on unibody platforms shared with front-wheel-drive cars.
The switch to unibody pickups will be similar to the switch made by many owners of body-on-frame SUVs to lighter, more fuel-efficient, carlike crossovers.
Toyota's A-BAT concept is likely to be the basis for a compact pickup. General Motors could have two unibody pickups on the road in the next decade. Ford's next-generation Explorer Sport Trac could shift to a fwd unibody platform. Meanwhile, Chrysler is wrestling with the idea of creating a vehicle platform to be used for cars and pickups.
The vehicles, called "lifestyle pickups" by automakers, will have less towing capacity than body-on-frame pickups. Most will drive like cars, with smaller engines and better fuel economy than traditional pickups — some may have hybrid or four-cylinder powertrains.
Lifestyle pickups will be able to haul all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, personal watercraft and some boats. But right now no one is certain what a lifestyle pickup will be. Said Frank Klegon, Chrysler LLC's head of product development: "Everybody is hunting down this formula."
"Is it a smaller body-on-frame? Is it unibody?" asked Klegon during an interview at the Chicago Auto Show in February. "Can it be front-drive? Can it just carry 1,000 pounds? We don't know yet."