Lease rates for pickups are climbing as the workhorses add capabilities and features that rival those of more traditional luxury vehicles.
The trend creates an opportunity for manufacturers to expand sales of those high-margin light trucks, but it is not without risk.
Sales of personal-use pickups have been rising in the aftermath of the recession. And average transaction prices for full-size pickups topped $40,000 in 2014.
So it's not surprising to see leasing increase in a pricey category, even if it remains well below the leasing rates of luxury brands.
FCA US has discovered an uptick in demand for leasing among small businesses, even those that intend to keep the trucks after the lease period ends.
For those buyers, a lease-and-buy strategy is a cash-management tool that gives them additional flexibility on depreciation schedules.
But pickup leasing has its own issues.
Pickups are typically high-mileage, high-wear vehicles that fall outside conventional leasing business models. Manufacturers and leasing lenders must manage the number of returning off-lease vehicles to avoid damaging residual values for the entire brand.
Finally, pickup sales are linked closely to fuel prices. That makes pickup sales and the residual value of used pickups more volatile.
But if automakers and lenders can manage those risks, pickup leasing can be a lucrative business.