DETROIT — The pickup battle is over. Yet it has only just begun.
Judging by product development strategy, Ford has won.
It has long set the pace by continually introducing new technologies, increasing towing and hauling capability, adding luxury features and carving out new segments — a playbook that has kept the F series on top of the sales charts for 41 years.
The redesigns of the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram pickups taking center stage at the Detroit auto show this week tear not just a page or two out of that playbook, but whole chapters.
The Silverado debuts an industry-first fuel-saving technology and perhaps the most advanced construction process used on a pickup. Ram introduces a giant, Tesla-like touch screen to a luxury-style interior, along with a long list of technical upgrades.
The result is a collection of trucks that showcase some of the most sophisticated technologies each manufacturer has in its arsenal.
They are, in effect, the new flagships of Detroit.
And right now, there's a great deal riding on their success.
Pickups are the highest-volume, highest-profit vehicles Detroit builds, and they have defied any kind of ceiling on price. In the near term at least, those profits must serve as the ATM that funds manufacturers' expensive forays into autonomous vehicles, electrification and other risky investments.
They also fuel the cycle of innovation in pickups that keeps escalating the arms race among the big manufacturers.
More fuel-efficient pickups sold in high volume also make it easier for Detroit's automakers to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy targets. Even though the Trump administration has ordered a review of Obama-era fuel economy standards, automakers must proceed on the assumption that the spirit of those rules will remain in place.