Top 11 Pickup Truck News Stories of 2008


It's been a rocky year for pickup trucks. Here's our look back at the Top 11 News Stories of 2008.

No. 11: Honda Ridgeline Wins Baja 1000


Race on Sunday, sell on Monday. That’s long been the adage used by car- and truck-makers to justify big investments in expensive racing programs, especially when they have a winner on their hands. If it’s true, there ought to be long lines of buyers outside Honda dealerships waiting to buy the oft-maligned Ridgeline unibody pickup.

The Ridgeline, piloted by Gavin Skilton, finally won the Stock Mini Class in the grueling Baja 1000 desert race in Mexico after three attempts. The Baja is one of the toughest races on man and machine, and this was a well-deserved victory for Skilton and the Ridgeline. However, how is Honda going to sell on Monday if it doesn’t take the time to put out a press release or advertisement trumpeting the victory?


No. 10: 2009 Hummer H3T Debuts While GM Put Hummer Brand Up For Sale


The debut of the 2009 Hummer H3T introduced us to one of the most capable off-road pickups on the planet. We tested its mettle on the rocky trails of California’s Sierra Mountains and in the steep canyons of Moab, Utah. But a smaller truck won’t be enough to save this brand. GM put Hummer up for sale before the H3T even went on sale. 


No. 9: GMC Denali XT Concept Debuts at Chicago Auto Show


As critically panned as the Honda Ridgeline has been by core truck buyers – at least, before its Baja 1000 win -- GM thought the idea behind the Ridgeline could work if combined with some thunder from Down Under. Its take? The segment-blurring GMC Denali XT concept, based on a modified version of the Australian-built Holden VE Ute / Pontiac G8 ST platform. The Denali XT was a technical showcase of future tech with a direct-injection, hybrid, flex-fuel V-8 powertrain and the retro looks of a gangland hauler.


No. 8: Ford F-100 Rumored and De-Rumored


When oil prices climbed to more than $100 a barrel in January, long-neglected small trucks suddenly started to look more appealing. Word from our sources at Ford said their solution to rising fuel prices was a brand-new pickup, to be called the F-100. The F-100 was to arrive by 2011, based on a modified version of the next-generation Ford F-150 chassis. It would have offered four- and six-cylinder EcoBoost engines with high horsepower and good fuel economy. In the end, however, small-truck sales didn’t jump as much as expected as fuel prices rose and big truck sales tanked, leading Ford to scratch the concept before it could make it off the drawing board. Ford’s future fuel-efficiency efforts will continue to be focused on the F-150.


No. 7: Toyota and Ford Shelve Light-Duty Diesels


Boy, did we hear it from Toyota Tundra owners and enthusiasts when we reported that Toyota had shelved its plans for a diesel V-8. The oil-burner had been promised by Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe in January at the Detroit auto show, but high fuel prices -- including a 20 percent premium for diesel over regular gasoline -- conspired to kill the fuel-economy improvements that a compression ignition motor might have promised over spark engines. Even Ford decided to hit the pause button on its baby Power Stroke engine, instead choosing to place its fuel-economy and power bets on the upcoming EcoBoost V-6 that’s expected by 2010 for the F-150. Only GM and Chrysler continue to move forward with diesel plans for half-ton pickups.


No. 6: Nissan, Toyota Fail to Take Over Full-Size Truck Segment (Titan and Tundra)

If you’d asked Nissan and Toyota executives back in 2004 or 2005 where they expected to be in 2008, you’d have heard (politely) about their grand plans to invade the last remaining stronghold of the Detroit Three with superior trucks that would show buyers what real trucks were made of. Today, after initial quality concerns that marred the launch of both the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra, Titan sales were down 79.6 percent in November 2008 from November 2007, and Tundra sales were down 56 percent from the same time. Ouch.


No. 5: 2010 Pontiac G8 ST Introduced


Truck enthusiasts who’ve missed the Chevrolet El Camino since it went away in 1988 got a new car-truck they could call their own when GM debuted the 2010 Pontiac G8 ST at the New York auto show. Some were disappointed that the rear-wheel-drive, V-8-powered sport truck wouldn’t wear a bowtie on its grille, but Pontiac hosted a contest to let people create a new name. Despite all the entries (and a well-run lobbying campaign for the El Camino name) Pontiac decided ST was good enough. Recent news, however, indicates GM’s financial woes may kill the G8 ST before it arrives next year.


No. 4: 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Introduced


We first heard about Ford’s Project Raptor in January, when Sean Holman at Four Wheeler Magazine broke the story. We couldn’t wait to jump on board as Sean’s and our sources started to chime in with tips about and pics of Ford’s wild new offroad pickup, based on the new 2009 F-150. There was speculation about its powertrain, long-travel suspension and whether or not the project had been killed due to high fuel prices. We wondered if the rumored truck could ever live up to the hype that surrounded it. We weren’t disappointed when Ford officially confirmed the Raptor’s existence and let us ride shotgun in the Raptor in November. The ultimate offroad F-150 arrived with a brand-new 6.2-liter premium V-8 (formerly called the Boss) and Fox Racing Suspension. Ford even kept the Raptor codename as the truck’s official badge after it gathered so much equity online.


No. 3: 2009 Ford F-150 and 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Introduced


With only five manufacturers and six nameplates in the segment, there’s no guarantee that a new full-size half-ton will debut every year. Rarer still is the introduction of two new half-tons at the same time, which is what happened with the long-awaited updates of the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500.

Ford was conservative, playing to the F-150’s traditional towing and hauling strengths, while Dodge broke new ground with an innovative coil-spring rear suspension for superior unloaded ride quality, plus an optional cargo box side storage system.

So far, the awards and sales tallies are running in the F-150’s favor.


No. 2: High Fuel Prices Chase Casual Truck Buyers Out of Trucks

The top two news stories of 2008 are closely tied to each other, but No. 2 has strong long-term implications . As fuel prices rose and home values began to crater, casual truck buyers who loved the looks, presence and functionality of big trucks, but didn’t need all the capability, stopped buying trucks. These are the buyers who, over the past decade, pushed year-over-year truck sales higher and higher through 2006 and drove truck manufacturers to offer ever-more refined interiors with the same creature comforts as luxury sedans. Platinum F-150, anyone? Now, it appears these buyers are gone for the next several years, if not for good. Look for trucks to return to meeting the needs of commercial and core-truck buyers, and expect longer periods of time between model refreshes and redesigns.


No. 1: Trucks Sales Fall Off a Cliff


We’ll have in-depth analysis next month, but 2008 can already be remembered as the year truck sales fell off a cliff as casual truck buyers fled the segment and commercial buyers held off on purchases. Increased fuel prices left trucks hanging by their fingers, and the bursting of the housing bubble made sure they lost their grip. Through November 2008, only 1.8 million full-size and midsize trucks had sold, compared to about 2.5 million pickups at the same time a year earlier. If we’re lucky, the industry will break 2 million units by the end of the year.


We'd like to take this opportunity to officially apologize for calling out you guys about the demise of the light-duty Tundra. We didn't believe the rumors (our own sources were still confident the LD diesel was coming) so we publicly stated as much. Unfortunately, our sources weren't as good as yours. Keep up the great work, and we'll try not to disagree with you next time!

@Tundra HQ: No worries! It's all 'sources said' until the official word comes out. Keep up the good work, too. :-)

I don't get it. The GMC Denali concept was big news but the A-BAT wasn't? You've got the "ABAT a go, Tundra diesel shelved", but the accompanying text doesn't even mention the thing. It's just about the Tundra diesel.

I dunno. The Denali to me is just vaporware. The A-BAT is an actual contender. I think it's far bigger news than the Denali was. But that's just me.

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