2024 Pickup Truck Report

April 9, 2024
Electric pickups are still coming, though not as quickly as ICE technology boosts efficiency.

Production of pickup trucks has largely recovered from the Covid effects, and pent-up demand is being satiated. Pickups are still the single most popular class of vehicle sold in the U.S., and they have become more car-like while keeping their hauling abilities.

Pickup truck sales seem to be leveling off but are still strong, staying well above the shrunken numbers of 2020 and ’21. For manufacturers, profit margins on pickups are healthy, yielding returns for stockholders and funds for continued development and production of all vehicle types. 

Product variety in pickups has both expanded and contracted as manufacturers introduce new powertrains but cut out older components and slower-selling equipment, including engines and smaller cab configurations. The 4-door crewcab now is the most popular type, covering about 80% of pickup sales industry-wide, builders report. In full-size trucks, extended cabs have become rare, and Ram has dropped its two-door regular cab except in chassis-cab models. Crewcabs are usually the only size offered in midsize and compact pickups. Larger cabs provide extra room for passengers in trucks that see more actual use as sedans, and working folks like the back-seat space for secure storage of tools and supplies.

The growth in size and weight of full-size trucks has alarmed safety experts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shares those concerns because of its involvement with transportation infrastructure. It contracted for specific crash research with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The school’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility did crash testing and found that current guardrails are not sufficient to contain heavy EVs. 

Read also: Rear Seat Passengers May be at Risk in Pickups

Manufacturers like Ford say that full-size pickups have become bigger because that’s what customers want.

“The growth in pickup size is driven by customer demands for more space and capacity, alongside styling trends and the need for larger batteries in electric models like the Lightning,” said Kevin Lieberum, Ford Pro commercial truck brand manager. “This evolution reflects ongoing improvements in performance and customer expectations.” 

Engine advancements in pickup trucks

But the 5.7 gasoline Hemi is being discontinued as Stellantis, Ram’s corporate parent, downsizes engines to meet government-mandated fuel economy and exhaust emissions limits. The Ram 1500 is instead going with a 3-liter inline-six-cylinder engine that will pack twin turbochargers and other advancements. The Hurricane, as it’s called, will come in regular and high-output versions strong enough that most customers probably won’t care much about the Hemi’s demise unless they are really devoted to the idea and sound of a V-8.

“The 3-liter has 420 horsepower and 469 lb.-ft.—more than the V-8 and with more efficiency,” said Sowers. “The HO is 540 horsepower and 521 lb.-ft., which is reserved for high trim levels. The inline 6 has packaging and technical advantages, too,” because it’s narrower, leaving adequate room for accessories like the turbos and aftercoolers. The 3-liter inline-6 will be offered along with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 in Ram’s 1500 pickups; a 3-liter diesel V-6 has been dropped for lack of sales.

Ford pioneered the substituting of turbocharging for displacement. Twelve years ago, it began de-emphasizing its traditional gasoline V-8s, and in 2011 introduced a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and later 2.7-liter versions. The new, smaller V-6s began appearing in its lighter-duty vans and pickups, including the perennial best-selling F-150, as well as many automobile models.

The EcoBoost 3.5 is also part of Ford’s recent Power Boost hybrid option that adds a 47-horsepower electric motor, a lithium-ion battery, and electronic controls to make them work together. A 5-liter V-8 remains available in the F-150 and is the choice of buyers who prefer the old, reliable way of doing things versus the complexity that turbos suggest. Interestingly, all three engines—the small (by modern standards) V-8, EcoBoost 3.5, and the hybrid engine—claim the same 400-horse output, though the twin-turbo V-6 has the highest torque, at 500 lb.-ft.    

For Ford’s larger SuperDuty pickups that carry and tow heavy loads, it’s big V-8s all the way. The 6.8 and 7.4 gasoline V-8s are standard power in the SuperDuties, with the diesel 6.7 optional.

Chevrolet and GMC have stuck with gasoline and diesel V-8s for their Silverado and Sierra 2500 and 3500 series Heavy Duty pickups, and both are 6.6-liter engines for 2024. The gasser is called L8T, and the diesel is still called Duramax. Light-duty 1500 pickups trucks come with 5.3- and 6.2-liter gasoline V-8s, while a 3-liter Duramax V-6 diesel is being dropped. New to the 1500s for 2024 is a 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-4 as standard equipment.

Compacts and mid-size pickups

Ford and General Motors have scored successes with their smaller compact and mid-size pickups, answering demand from customers who don’t want the larger full-size models. That includes some fleets who have realized that for carrying passengers and a few tools and supplies, smaller trucks work as well and often better. GM’s mid-size models, succeeding the earlier compacts, fill that need, even if big Silverado and Sierra pickups outsell them by seven to one, according to one dealer.

Read also: Colorado Offers an Alternative to Full-Size Pickups

Ford’s long-running Ranger compact truck left the U.S. market in 2011 but returned in 2018 as a mid-size model. Ford’s Maverick—a name formerly used for a 1970s small sedan—proved an immediate success when it came out in 2021 as a compact pickup with gasoline-only and gas-electric hybrid powertrains.

Rumors have Ram bringing back the Dakota, but it will only say that it continues to “watch” the smaller-truck market. One consideration is not wanting to cannibalize sales of the Gladiator pickup from Jeep, another Stellantis division.

About the Author

Tom Berg

Tom Berg is widely acknowleged as one of the top truck writers in the industry. He has covered construction for more than 34 years, and has test-driven well over 150 trucks for Construction Equipment.