According to CNW Research, an automotive marketing research company, the percentage of pickup truck purchases by contractors (aka the construction industry) has risen more than 50 percent during the first half of 2013 for the first time since the mid-1980s.
CNW has been collecting data on pickup truck sales for several decades, breaking down the sales into five major categories: appearance, contractor, fleet, RV tow and farm/ranch. During the last 10 to 15 years, the numbers in each category have been relatively stable, with the exception of appearance. This category reflects more of a lifestyle choice, or "cool" factor, rather than being based on a specific requirement an owner might have.
The most dramatic change in these categories comes when examining the percentages from 2001, when the appearance segment reached its highest numbers, to the present. Through much of the early 2000s, at a time when full-size pickup sales were quite high, there were many consumers who seemed to buy pickups for "nonfunctional" reasons. Those numbers fell into single digits by the end of the decade and are still below 6 percent for the last six months.
The contractor category, however, started at more than 50 percent in 1985 and is just now getting back to a stronger position. Typically the largest percentage of the five groups listed, the construction industry looks like it's ready to get back to work with the help of new pickups on job sites.
It's also worth noting that the RV tow category directly maps what the RV industry has gone through during the last 15 years as well. When times are good and pickup truck sales are strong, the RV industry — especially the camper trailer manufacturers — has a much better time. So far, that end of the economy is still sluggish.