It feels like the good old days for the Detroit 3, with big pickups flying off dealership lots and plants running full out to fill orders for large, profitable models.
"It's a great time to be in the truck business," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations at General Motors, which starts shipping redesigned versions of its full-sized pickups to dealers this month.
In many ways, this may be an even better time than before the recession.
Although volumes remain well below the previous peaks, average transaction prices for full-sized pickups have increased at more than double the average rate for the industry since 2005, according to Edmunds.com. And manufacturers are not creating demand artificially with unsustainable discounts.
Edmunds says average transaction prices for large pickups, including heavy-duty models, have risen to almost $40,000, from about $31,000 in 2005. That equates to an 8 percent gain after adjusting for inflation.
And the housing market is just starting to give the auto industry a tailwind that some in the industry say could bring pickup sales back to the levels Detroit enjoyed nearly a decade ago.
Also, the Detroit 3 no longer have to spend their truck profits just trying to cover the crushing legacy costs and overhead expenses that helped land two of them in Bankruptcy Court.
"It allows them to do things and make investments that in the past they neglected," Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Capital, said in an interview.
In May, full-sized pickups accounted for about one-third of the 8 percent increase in U.S. sales volume from a year ago. For the first five months of the year, the segment was up 21 percent while the industry rose only 7 percent.