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January 15, 2018

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Pickups and SUVs set to grow in US car market

The Detroit Auto Show opened yesterday, with pickup trucks and SUVs expected to take center stage in a sign of their growing might in the US car market.

General Motors got things off to an early start on Saturday night, unveiling its revamped 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickups, billed as the “next generation of strong.”

A short video with twangy music and upbeat testimonials from Silverado owners was followed by the introduction of four of the eight Silverado models at different price points and with slightly different styling.

The Silverado was the second best-selling US vehicle in 2017 after the Ford F-series and ahead of the Ram 1500, in third position. All three are pickups.

“Everything’s just bigger here, so I think that’s what makes us just love our trucks,” said Chris Luce, 24, a Silverado owner from Brighton, Michigan who attended the launch.

Ford is unveiling the North American version of the 2019 Ford Ranger. It goes on sale next spring, eight years after Ford pulled it off the market in the US and Canada.

Back then, the cheap but dependable Ranger was the best-selling truck of its size. But gas prices were high, demand was dwindling and the struggling company wanted to devote more resources to hybrids and to improving fuel economy in its full-size F-150 pickup. The company shuttered the 86-year-old Minnesota factory where the Ranger was made.

“It was politically correct to cast aside pickups at the time,” says Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for the market research firm AutoPacific. A rival small pickup, the Dodge Dakota, was pulled off the market the same year.

Other carmakers seen unveiling pickups, SUVs and large “crossover” vehicles include Fiat Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota’s Lexus.

The show is set to be light on electric cars and to be dominated by spiffed up versions of the bread-and-butter vehicles that dominate the US market.

US car sales fell modestly last year for the first time since the financial crisis but came in at a still-solid 17.2 million, well above the 16 million that many analysts consider good.

While the show is primarily an opportunity to ogle what’s coming next from Motor City, politics is certain to enter the discussion as well.

US carmakers are eyeing talks to revamp the North America Free Trade Agreement following President Donald Trump’s vows to cut a better deal for US firms and workers.

The just-enacted US tax cut bill, which will lift corporate profits and includes measures to spur capital spending, will also be in focus.


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