Houston Auto Show Launches Texas' Annual Truck Wars

Houston Auto show Shot II

By Peter A. Hubbard

There is no place on the planet where competition between pickup truck manufacturers is as intense or taken more seriously than it is in Texas — and for good reason. More pickups are sold each year in Texas than any other state. While the actual percentage varies slightly from year to year, at least 20 percent, or 1 in 5 of all pickups sold in the U.S. each year are sold in Texas. The reasons are fairly clear.

Although Texas doesn't have the largest population, it is the biggest of the lower 48 states, with more ranches, farms and tradesmen per square mile than anyplace else — the type of work for which pickups are built. Also, with the demise of large rear-drive four-door sedans and the arrival of deluxe four-door pickups with more amenities than a Dallas Cowboys' skybox, full-size pickups have become the vehicle of choice in the Lone Star State, even for Texans who aren't into heavy hauling. Add to that the state's business-friendly economic climate and robust job growth the last five years (despite a national recession), and it's easy to see why Texas qualifies as a pickup's natural habitat.

That being the case, it's not surprising that the unofficial kickoff of the annual Texas Truck Wars begins at the Houston Auto Show — the largest new car auto show in Texas and first of the calendar year. This year's show, held Jan. 21-25 at Houston's NRG Center, featured more than 500 new import and domestic vehicles as well as 200 additional vehicles displayed by aftermarket upfitters and vendors, plus some 70 classic and collector cars, and several hand-built "art cars."

It's held each year in late January, slotted between the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and the Chicago Auto Show. Despite not being one of the four major "tier one" shows — Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York — the Houston show is considered an important "selling" show by the automakers, given the size and strength of the Texas market.

So while there were no major 2016 unveilings at the show, it did feature the Texas debut of at least 15 new 2015 models, including three trucks: the Ram 1500 Rebel, the Chevrolet Colorado and Ford F-150.

For decades the battle for sales supremacy in Texas was a war primarily waged between Ford and Chevrolet, with Ford coming out on top virtually every year. While Ford trucks still top the retail sales charts, and have for more than 30 years now, the race has tightened considerably in recent years. The Texas pickup market has gotten a lot more interesting since the 1990s when Dodge (now Ram) fielded a much more competitive and attractive line of light- and heavy-duty work trucks. Fast-forward another 15 years or so and a fourth entry — Toyota — began to make it a four-automaker race, thanks to the growing popularity of the Tundra.

Texas retail sales of full-size light trucks for 2014 show Ford once again took the lead with 65,040 units sold. Chevrolet was not far behind at 63,451, with the Ram 1500 next at 58,548, followed by the GMC Sierra with sales of 29,700 and the Toyota Tundra finishing with sales of 22,611. Fleet sales and sales of three-quarter and one-ton models pushed Ford and GM over the 100,000 mark in Texas, but their ranking remain unchanged.

Clearly Texans love pickups, and the pickup makers love Texans — so much so that truckmakers now aggressively woo this vital market by offering special "Texanized" models.

Ford got the ball rolling with the King Ranch version of the F-150 for the 2001 model year. The King Ranch treatment was added to the Super Duty line in 2003 and to the Expedition SUV in 2005. Named after the legendary working cattle ranch in south Texas, the truck became an instant hit. In the last five years the other three pickup makers officially decided to follow suit.

In 2011 GM added heavy-duty suspensions and other work-ready content to a Texas Edition of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. And in the past year Chevy has added two more Texas- and Western-themed models — a burnt-orange University of Texas Edition and the top-of-the line High Country with upgraded suspension parts and plush leather interior, similar to Ford's King Ranch.

Last year two more Texas-themed pickups were introduced — one from Toyota and the other from Ram. Ram began offering the Laramie Longhorn leather-lined premium edition — similar to the King Ranch — with luxury and performance upgrades available across the lineup: 1500, 2500 and 3500.

Toyota's Texas-themed four-door pickup is called the 1794 Edition, named after the year a Spanish land grant was issued to a nobleman from the Canary Islands who settled near San Antonio in order to establish a large Texas cattle ranch. Toyota purchased roughly 2,600 acres of the original 4,000-acre ranch on which to build its U.S. truck assembly plant in 2003.

Toyota's truck plant is the second Texas assembly plant that builds truck-based products. For decades now GM has been building some of Texas' most popular vehicles at its Arlington assembly plant near Dallas — the truck-based Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe SUVs along with their companion GMC and Cadillac versions.

Cars.com photos by Peter A. Hubbard


Regency 6[9] II

Regency 15[9] II

Regency 4[9] II

Silverado Rally Sport Model Z71[16] II

Regency 1[10] II

Ram Rebel 3[6] II

Ram Rebel 5[6] II

Houston Texans truck 2[6] II

Art Car 5[10] II

Hand-built truck[12] II

Hand-built truck 2[21] II


Longhorn Laramie[6] II

Texas Edition[6] II

Tundar 1794_2[6] II



I'd like to see truck sales for Texas, specifically how many 1/2 tons by brand.

Tundra, made in Texas by Texans. Everything else is only junk.

The best looking vehicle out of these is the Jeep.

It actually looks quite good.

All it needs is the VM 2.8 diesel and a snorkel and a trailer hitch to tow a small off road trailer than can carry about 1/2 a ton.

It could then be used on an extended off road adventure.

So why isn't Houston, or the Texas State Fair for that matter, placed on the major auto show circuit? Or even the Nation Work Truck Show? It would be a refreshing change of pace from Detroit, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or SEMA.

The square wheel opening on the Chevy and GMC trucks really looks hideous

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