Vast rural areas of North America are being transformed by hydraulic fracturing, the controversial energy extraction process better known as fracking.
The process is transforming rural auto dealerships as well. The dealers need some help, and automakers serious about selling pickups ought to jump in with both feet to assist.
The oil and natural gas wells being drilled into underground shale deposits promise to pump tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of dollars into small-town economies. Rural landowners can get one-time payments of $4,000 per acre or more for the right to drill beneath their land, plus residual payments of 15 to 19 percent for any hydrocarbons removed.
Dealerships in those areas must prepare for new challenges they certainly will face, such as high-paying petroleum-extraction companies hiring away trained technicians. Equally, dealerships must be able to order and obtain far more regular and heavy-duty pickups to cope with their customers' demands and not be limited to traditional ordering patterns.
Considering the staggering number of heavy-duty pickups sold in fracking areas, neither factories nor dealers can afford to miss this opportunity. If automakers want to take full advantage, they should precede energy exploration companies into areas where shale plays are happening to make sure their rural dealerships are also up to speed.