Opinion: There is no ‘monster truck’ onslaught coming for your parking spot

Yes, American-style pickup trucks are a growing segment, and sure, they are big. But are they really deserving of so much hate?

With all the recent media attention that the new US-style pickup trucks are getting, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re all about to be crushed at every turn from a gigantic behemoth of the road.

I’m here to tell you that everyone needs to relax.

Yes, RAM and Chevrolet (via GMSV) have seen tremendous success in the Australian market for what is inherently a niche vehicle category. Since 2016, RAM has sold a total of 22,850 units of their re-engineered 1500, 2500 and 3500 series pickups. The Chevrolet Silverado joined the fray in 2020, with now 6579 bow-tie-clad utes gracing our roads.

Add to this, that Ford and Toyota are set to shortly join the market, with the F-150 and Tundra respectively, adds weight to the claim that these ‘full-size’ American pickups are gaining in popularity.

But while sales are growing, and the market choice is expanding, we just need to settle down a bit on the whole ‘taking over our roads’ rhetoric.

Last month, a total of 792 large pickups were sold in Australia. That’s nearly 800 brand new, full-sized American trucks joining our road fleet, and adding to the year-to-date sales total of 7111 vehicles. It equates to a year-on-year growth of the segment by 47.4 per cent, fast moving and successful in anyone’s eyes, and I have personally been interviewed at least five times about it.

For context though, 1047 micro-sized passenger cars were sold in the same period, and I don’t remember seeing a news bulletin about that.

Sure, those (mostly) Kia Picantos tip the scales at 1011kg, where the top-selling (457 units) RAM 1500 pushes things out to 2553kg. More than double. Ooft.

Remember too, in NSW, you pay more for your registration based on the vehicle's weight. Using the values above, a Kia Picanto's road-tax charge is $264 whereas the RAM will cost the owner $733. Queensland calculates registration based on cylinder count ($360 for 4-cyl, $799 for 8-cyl), and the RAM has eight of them. Ouch.

But to add some more context, let’s also note that 2174 light-duty heavy vans and trucks were also sold in August 2023 (almost three-times the volume of large pickups), not to mention some 18,626 ‘regular-sized’ 4x4 utes.

For the ultimate clarity of our new vehicle market, exactly 23,862 medium-sized SUVs were sold in Australia in August 2023. This is the most-popular vehicle segment with buyers and it is some 30-times larger than the volume of large pickups being sold.

My point being, that despite the impressive growth from RAM and Chevrolet, we are a long way from being ‘inundated’ by these vehicles. And that in terms of heavy road vehicle sales, the big twin-cab ‘trucks’ only make up a small percentage of the fleet.

So why buy one at all?

In terms of capability, these vehicles offer standard towing capacities of 4500kg, a 28 per cent increase above the 3500kg touted by standard-size utes like a Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger. And, with the right hardware, the RAM 2500 and 3500 can tow up to 8000kg, enough for not one but two elephants.

More importantly though, is the increase in GCM (Gross Combination Mass) from around 5850kg to 7713kg (an increase of 32 per cent) which makes not only towing, but carrying, a much more capable and ultimately safer exercise.

Remember too, Australia is big. Really big.

So much so that travelling long distances in comfort while managing a heavy load is not something that can be easily or confidently handled by a medium SUV. Furthermore, if you’ve got a twin-horse float, or a heavy piece of farming equipment, pushing a D-Max or Navara to its towing limit is far less safe than having a vehicle that can manage the weight more comfortably.

However, the grumbles we’ve heard about the big utes are not about how they tow or even how they operate in regional areas, but when they are driven and parked around town.

As yes, a RAM 1500 is bigger than a Ford Ranger, and it’s bigger than a Mazda CX-5.

Would I choose to drive one to the shops when a smaller car works for my needs? No. But this isn’t about me.

For a start, a RAM 1500 is 5833mm long and 2097mm wide. Big, sure… but not the biggest.

So far this year, 4968 Isuzu N-Series light-duty trucks have been sold in Australia. Almost the same as the number of RAM utes (5075).

The Isuzu N-Series is Australia’s most popular small truck, and would be the type of vehicle you see, in suburban streets, delivering groceries and parcels, moving furniture or handling a myriad of other logistics tasks.

An Isuzu NNR Vanpack is 6100mm long and 2185mm wide. That’s a slightly larger footprint than a RAM, and no one is complaining about them.

There was a story this week about a cycling group suggesting the big utes should be banned from urban areas.

Again, why? As I’ve noted above, we allow vans and even larger trucks to use our streets and there are just as many of them.

Furthermore, who’s to say the driver of the RAM you want to complain about doesn’t live in Wagga Wagga and is just in town visiting family? The bottom line is, you don’t know.

Sure, there are buyers who live in the city, have never and will never tow anything, and simply choose to drive a big ute every day, and that is their right.

Like I noted above, I wouldn’t, as it makes three-point turns a challenge and underground carparks impossible, but that is my decision. I find the LandCruiser 300 Series and Kia Carnival too big for my use too, but that doesn’t mean they should be banned.

I sense from my conversations about the big utes that these vehicles carry a form of anti-American sentiment along with their size. Remember, or learn as it may be, that all of these cars come to Australia as left-hand-drive vehicles and are then extensively re-engineered for right-hand drive by Australian workers in Australian factories. This is our automotive industry, and it should be encouraged.

We all share the roads, and should all be courteous to other drivers, regardless of the size of vehicle we drive, ride or park. But just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it is wrong or should be banned.

You’re not going to be able to tow a horse float from Shepparton to Dubbo with a Corolla, let alone a bicycle.

Yes, big utes are a thing. No, they aren’t for everyone.

But Australia is a big place, and if you think your space is being cramped, then maybe take the time to go around, because there is plenty of room for everyone.

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James Ward

James has been part of the digital publishing landscape in Australia since 2002 and has worked within the automotive industry since 2007. He joined CarAdvice in 2013, left in 2017 to work with BMW and then returned at the end of 2019 to spearhead the content direction of Drive.

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