For the past two years, CarGurus has surveyed pickup truck owners on their sentiments towards the category, its brands, and its vehicles. This year, we conducted an iteration of the study in early February before the coronavirus shutdowns and benchmarked it with one in September. What we found is that the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred demand, especially among younger car shoppers, but affordability concerns remain in the category.
Interest in pickup trucks prompted by pandemic
CarGurus data showed the COVID-19 pandemic may have helped spur pickup truck sales over the course of 2020: 26% of those who bought a pickup truck during the pandemic had not planned to before. Among them, over half (15%) were originally planning to buy a car but decided to buy a truck instead.
Drawn to the sense of escapism trucks offered, younger shoppers, in particular, helped fuel demand, and pandemic truck buyers were 24% more likely to be Generation Z or millennial. These younger truck buyers were also more likely to say that the vehicle was for road trips (40% vs. 31% of other pandemic buyers), was purchased to treat themselves (29% vs. 18%), and they were more likely to cite their stimulus check as a driver to purchase the truck (24% vs. 15%).
Pickup truck buyers are plugged into the future
The study also discovered that the future for the segment appears to be bright with current truck owners expressing excitement and signs of preference around electric pickups. Younger truck owners are showing signs of preference towards the newer electric truck brands:
- In September 34% of current truck owners said they will probably/definitely own an electric pickup truck in the next ten years and 23% in the next five years. These results are consistent with pre-pandemic results from February, 33% and 22%, respectively.
- Gen Z/millennial truck owners were over two times more likely to expect to own an electric truck in the next five years when compared to older truck owners (30% vs. 12%).
- The same age cohort of younger consumers was also two times more likely to consider a truck from category-newcomers like Tesla (32% vs. 14%), Rivian (11% vs. 4%), or Hummer (13% vs 6%) when compared to older truck owners.
Affordability issues continue
Truck owners have been concerned about affordability for years, and that continues today, despite the optimism stemming from pandemic truck purchasers. The survey uncovered that affordability issues continue to push owners out of the pickup truck category, with 17% of truck owners noting they probably won’t buy another truck. Additionally, two-thirds (66%) of truck owners said they would switch brands if their preferred brand increased prices by $10,000, consistent with findings from earlier this year.
Comparing September results to pre-pandemic, there were actually little to no changes in key metrics like loyalty to the category and price sensitivity. However, that could change depending on recovery.
Truck sales can help dealers boost their bottom line
For car dealers, there’s still an opportunity to capitalize on the excitement for pickup trucks among consumers. Identify in-demand trucks in your area using tools like the CarGurus Market Analysis tool and make sure your lot is stocked accordingly. Just make sure you’re pricing your vehicles fairly to avoid driving buyers away. The younger shoppers who are currently spurring demand are also the most at-risk for leaving the category.
To view the full results, download the CarGurus 2020 Pickup Truck Sentiment Study.