Phoebe Wall Howard
| Detroit Free Press
First drive video: 2020 Ram 1500 dieselClass-leading towing, luxurious interior and smooth air spring ride from a quiet V6Attitudes of pickup truck owners have shifted in a big way with COVID-19, based on a new study from CarGurus.com.”We learned how the pandemic may have helped to spur pickup truck purchases,” said Madison Gross, director of customer insights at the automotive research and shopping site.Part of the reason is the time to do more home improvement projects and the need for a vehicle to haul bulky stuff. If people were pondering a truck, they pulled the trigger.”According to the study, 26% of pandemic truck buyers said they hadn’t intended to buy one before, yet they opted to do so. Younger shoppers helped fuel this demand, noting that trucks offered a fun escape and a way to treat themselves, and stimulus checks helped them make these purchases,” she told the Free Press. “Given the higher price point that trucks tend to carry compared to other categories and the overall economic climate, it was interesting to see this trend towards more expensive vehicles.”Pickup sales drive huge profits for automakers.Election 2020: Stores brace for post-election unrest and possibility of violence’It’s certainly going to get worse’: Businesses plan more layoffs, hiring freezes in 2020 as COVID-19 escalatesThis latest study surveyed 31% mid-size truck owners, 55% full-size truck owners and 14% Heavy Duty truck owners. Shopper behavior shifts can rattle companies during these unpredictable times. Billions of dollars are at stake.Steve Frost, 39, a mortgage company owner, ordered a 2021 Ram 1500 in October sight unseen. It’ll mark an end to his years of driving a 2015 GMC Sierra Denali and a 2018 GMC Sierra Denali.”I’ve never been a guy to get the same car twice and then I got the same truck twice. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to break up. It’s not them, it’s me,” Frost said. “So I ordered a Ram. They have that big screen in the middle. I feel like I needed to change my style a little bit, switch it up.”He’ll use his $60,000 vehicle to drive to work and take the kids to school. “Truthfully, I haven’t even sat in a Dodge Ram before. But I saw that big old screen with all its colors and thought, ‘This is what I need.’ So I placed an order. I was a free agent, basically five years with the same team and I thought, ‘I’m gonna go into 2021 with a big screen and lots of colors on it.’ Really nothing more serious about it than that.”After seeing the truck on the internet and placing the order with a dealer this month, based on a friend’s referral, the vehicle is scheduled for delivery in November, he said. “The pandemic certainly solidified the truck-man in me.”Frost, like the majority of pickup truck owners, said he uses his truck for home improvement and commuting. A pickup truck driver switching brands on a whim is, well, not typical.”Ram is changing the way people think about what a pickup truck can be,” said Mike Koval Jr., head of Ram Brand, FCA, North America.Pandemic buyersFrost falls right into the Gen Z/millennial ages of 18 to 39 studied by CarGurus.They surveyed 1,081 so-called “pandemic buyers,” or the people who reported buying a truck from mid-April through mid-September. They compared the findings with their study done in February, just before the coronavirus shutdown period.Here’s what CarGurus found out about the “pandemic buyers.”26% had not planned to get a truck; 15% changed from their plan to buy a car.24% were more likely to be Gen Z or millennials compared with previous truck owners.10% were more likely to live in the suburbs and 30% more likely to live in cities compared with previous truck owners.Of the buyers, 56% purchased used and 44% purchased new.Price was a key driver. A majority of truck owners said price was the biggest attraction.More: Experts: These are the safest, most reliable used cars for under $20KAttitudes about how to use the truck and how to buy it also shifted based on age:40% of Gen Z/millennials had plans for road trips vs. 31% of older buyers.29% of younger buyers wanted to “treat” themselves vs. 18% older buyers.24% of younger buyers paid with stimulus check money vs.15% older buyers.Overall, two of three truck owners said they would consider switching truck brands if they could save $10,000, which is consistent with earlier findings this year. The study has been conducted since 2018.”Affordability continues to be a concern for truck owners,” Gross said.Overall, about one-third said they’ll probably or definitely own an electric pickup within 10 years.Electrified youthThe study showed interest in battery-electric trucks has remained constant between 2020 surveys, reflecting an eagerness to adopt new technology for buyers 18 to 39:18% vs. 10% older say they’ll probably or definitely go electric in the next year.30% vs. 12% older say they’ll probably or definitely go electric in the next five years.40% vs. 26% older say they’ll probably or definitely go electric in the next 10 years.Detroit 3 domination”It was surprising to see how the overall interest in electric pickups was quite high,” Gross said. “Given that these are just starting to hit the market, it shows that truck owners, and especially younger ones, are really excited about the next generation and upcoming technology for trucks.”Of the responses, 61% came from owners 39 or younger.Overall, nearly one in three said they planned to spend more time in their vehicle.Owners surveyed were 34% Ford, 21% Chevy, 14% Toyota, 10% Dodge, 7% GMC and 14% other. “Our trucks … are interwoven into our American culture,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid.