BEIJING — Grey Liu bought his third vehicle four months ago — a Foton pickup, lured by its $7,000 price tag and its ability to transport his motorcycle to the grasslands of northern China where he likes to ride.
The Beijing businessman is among a growing number of drivers in China keen on pickups — either for leisure or just because they like them — expanding the market beyond traditional demand for farm, construction and maintenance work.
While calling his pickup "a big toy," the 35-year-old notes some of his friends also have one. "There are more and more people like us," Liu said.
Pickup demand — both work-related and the newer interest from mainstream consumers — has climbed on the back of an easing in government restrictions and last year China became the world's second-biggest pickup market.
Signs this year that rules may be relaxed further are prompting industry executives and analysts to talk of a potential doubling or even greater jump in demand. That in turn is spurring Great Wall Motor Co., China's largest pickup manufacturer, and Ford Motor Co., the maker of the most popular U.S. pickup, the F series, to bolster product lines.
Great Wall is developing its first leisure model, President Wang Fengying told Reuters, revealing a previously unreported plan.
"We believe demand for multipurpose pickup trucks will soon start taking off in a major way," she said in a written statement, declining to provide further details.
The new truck will be priced much higher than current models and will be one of five all-new pickups in the next three years, sources familiar with Great Wall's plan said, declining to be identified as they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
At least one of the five would be an electric model, they added.