Stories from Texas

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March 23, 2016

In the Land of Pickups, Texas is King

By: W.F. Strong

To paraphrase Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, “I love the sound of a diesel engine in the morning.” Could be a pickup, or a tractor, or an 18 wheeler. But I love the sound, because it sounds like adventure. It is the sound that says we’re off on a road trip, or going fishing, hunting, or simply taking livestock to auction, to make more money for more adventure.

In Texas we buy more pickup trucks than any other state. Not all diesel of course, but taken all together we buy more pickups than any other state. In fact, there is not even a respectable second place. You have to add California and Florida and Oklahoma together to get a respectable second place in truck sales. And if Dallas and Houston were a state, they would be number two in truck sales, behind the rest of Texas. That’s a lot of trucks, y’all.

One fourth of all new vehicles sold in Texas are pickup trucks. Pickups are the luxury cars of Texas. In Texas, the number one status symbol is not a Mercedes or a BMW, it is a big, powerful, fully decked out pickup like a Ford F-250 or Chevy or Dodge Ram 2500, with a Power Stroke, Duramax or Cummins diesel. Texas is so dominant in Truck sales that auto companies sometimes divide their national marketing into North, East, West, and Texas. Hence the slogans, “Built Texas Tough,” and “Built by Texans for Texans,” you hear in so many ads.

You know the old saying in show business? If you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere? Well, for trucks it is this: “If you can make it in Texas, you can make it anywhere.”

The flagship truck for Texas appeal is Ford’s King Ranch edition pickup. Everybody knows that The King Ranch is the most famous ranch in Texas and known throughout the U.S. as an icon of manliness. It was a stroke of marketing genius, 15 years ago, when Ford wrapped their truck in the manly ethos of the King Ranch brand. Every leather seat within the truck is emblazoned with the King Ranch Running W cattle brand. Macho sublimity.

The King Ranch uses only Ford trucks. It has about 350 of them throughout its various divisions. The King Ranch edition pickup is the best selling of all Ford’s specialty brands. 1 out of every 5 Ford trucks is sold in Texas. 40 percent of the King Ranch models are sold in Texas, leaving a respectable 60 percent for those across North America who want to feel a little bit Texan every time they drive. Ford is not alone in the specialty market. Chevy and GMC have Texas editions – so does Ram, with its Lone Star edition – and so does Toyota, whose full size pickups are all built in San Antonio.

As long as Truck companies are into specialty models, I have a couple of suggestions: the South Padre edition, featuring large beach tires, a tailgate grill and a surf pole rack on the front – all standard. We could use a Big Bend edition – standard features would be off road tires, a 12-inch factory lift kit, and a front bumper winch. I don’t expect royalties. Just a free truck.

Country music has a whole genre of devoted to praise of pickups and their drivers. We have “The Pickup Truck Song,” by Jerry Jeff Walker, “Mud on the Tires” by Brad Paisley, “Rough and Ready” by Trace Adkins, and “Pickup Man” by Joe Diffie, to name a few in a crowded field.

Even women say that men who drive trucks are better lookin’ than men in cars. Insure.com conducted a poll last year and found that women say that men who drive trucks are the most attractive. And they were quite specific about it. A black pickup is best. They went even further – a black Ford pickup makes men the most attractive they can be. So I guess the Black Ford King Ranch edition, would be the kind of perfect driving prescription for Texas men wanting to spiff up their image. I told my wife about it and she said, “Yeah? Well you can’t have one. If you want another truck you can have that white ’66 Chevy Truck on blocks in your brother Redneck Dave’s back yard. Fix that up.”

W.F. Strong is a Fulbright Scholar and professor of Culture and Communication at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. At Public Radio 88 FM in Harlingen, Texas, he’s the resident expert on Texas literature, Texas legends, Blue Bell ice cream, Whataburger (with cheese) and mesquite smoked brisket.


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