The $80,000 Pickup Truck        

The $80,000 Pickup Truck

September 15, 2019

Today’s pickup trucks are encompassing form, function, and design. No longer built just for the road less traveled, these all wheel drive, pickups now come equipped with more power, stamina, and style. Designers have begun to genuinely listen to the consumer resulting in innovative and practical new truck designs. The big three in automotive industry, GM, Ford, and Dodge, are coming out with models with two way tailgates, step and loading stops, and effective utilitarian design.

“But now the truck studio is the biggest, busiest studio in the building.”

The following excerpt is from Core 77 and written by Rain Zoe: And just as the desirability of trucks has grown among consumers, so too have transportation designers’ desires to work on them. “I’ve been here almost 28 years,” says Carl Zipfel, GM’s truck studios Design Manager, Exterior Design, “and when I was hired, most car designers coming out of college wanted to work on a show car, or something like a Corvette. Back then, if you got put in the truck studio, it was almost seen as a punishment,” he laughs. “It wasn’t as glamorous, right? Designing this utilitarian tool, while the Corvette gets all of the attention.

These trucks are pushing all the right buttons, so to speak, with the customer because for the first time designers are creating based on real feedback. Specifically with GM, the research begins at the ground level. Clincs are conducted where interviews take place with owners of current vehicles and competitors’. These clinics range in strategy and practice but offer stimuli and nudges to get the individuals to give honest feedback. The three stage process ends with a the Confirmation, a final comb through the wants and needs of the consumer ensuring the design is on the right path. The design is not locked in at this point though and allows for last minute changes. “As I was doing my design lock on the Heavy Duty, we added a step in front of the rear wheel. That step helps the customer get up to the front of the box, so they can hook up a gooseneck trailer, or slide cargo to the front, or just reach the tiedown hooks from the outside. And that step was added from direct customer influence.” (Zipfel)

Designing a fully functional truck means the $80,000 price tag is worth the sleek, intricate design decisions. The customer base expressed to GM that the truck is carrying precious (several tons worth) cargo worth over tripe the price of the truck itself. Spending the money on a well designed truck is an investment in their business and goes toward the luxury of having a comfortable and safe vehicle, a place many of these customers spend most of their time. Being their “base camp,” designers incorporate today’s necessities like outlets, USB ports, and other tech must haves that make doing business on the road a smooth process.

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