China's elite see pickups as a worker's car, but that's harder to do with the Raptor.
The fact that automakers are building SUVs left and right and then coming away with record sales numbers may lead one to believe that these high ground clearance vehicles are the silver bullet for any ailing automaker. This, however, is not the case. Ever expanding lineups and lower prices brought on by smaller crossovers are beginning to slice away at the once lofty profits gained by selling SUVs. According to Reuters, Ford and GM are attempting to stave off a slump by looking towards China.
It’s not that either auto giant doesn’t already sell well in China. Buick would be nothing if it wasn’t the popular choice in the world’s number one auto market and the new Lincoln Continental is an attempt to lure in China’s elite and ride the wave of record sales numbers that the brand is posting within the boundaries of the Great Wall. However, more sales are always nice, and with SUV profitability slumping, Ford and GM are attempting to get China to love the pickup truck. Pickup trucks are hugely profitable and sell in droves in the US. Unfortunately, the Chinese see pickup trucks as vehicles for laborers, so it’s unlikely that those choosing between a long wheelbase BMW 7 Series or an Audi Q7 would consider an F-150.
That rule may apply to the normal Chinese car buying population, but gearheads are another matter. Now that several cities in China have lifted daytime bans on trucks, Ford wants to bring the new Raptor to its dealerships to see if Chinese car buyers can learn to love badass pickup trucks. Wesley Liu, Ford's Asia-Pacific sales director, said that the Raptor would be an experiment to see if China’s elite takes to the truck. "The people who buy the Raptor maybe own some other premium vehicle already. This is another toy," Liu said. If the trick works, Ford would then investigate and see if it’s viable to bring the standard F-150 or even the Ranger to China.
While enthusiasts are a start, it isn't just gearheads that Ford and GM are targeting. The two automakers also expect the pickup truck to be a reasonable choice for the wealthy who want to stand out, business owners that want classier and non-commercial trucks for work, and those who want a vehicle that can do it all. It may be a bit of a reach, but if American automakers can get the ball rolling and set the trend, it may pay dividends in the years to come. If it does stick, you can thank the enthusiasts because who else buys a 450 horsepower truck?