Autos

Luxury pickup sales are booming and stealing attention away from SUVs

VIDEO15:0115:01
How Detroit turned trucks into high-priced luxury rides

Apparently truck owners like nice things, too.

Automakers are raking in cash and industry awards selling high-end versions of the stalwart workhorse of vehicles, the pickup truck. 

In recent years, General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have seen average transaction prices for sophisticated and well-appointed versions of their strong-selling pickup trucks soar even above the average transaction prices for luxury brands such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. 

The customer is, for the most part, still distinct. Trade-in data suggest only a small portion of those buying high-end Ford, GMC, and RAM pickups are turning in their Benzes and BMWs.

Instead, automakers discovered they had actually been underserving their own customers. It turns out truck buyers like the convenience, flexibility and capability of a pickup, but don't want to sacrifice comfort and convenience to drive one. 

So truck makers are outfitting their vehicles with large infotainment displays, plush leather seats, and real wood trim, in addition to tech features that make the driving experience a lot more manageable, such as extensive camera systems that can help drivers see terrain below the vehicle or see through trailers. 

As the U.S. economy has recovered, consumers looking for new cars have increasingly chosen sport utilities and crossovers over traditional passenger cars. Relatively low gas prices and more efficient power trains have helped the switch.

Trucks are some of the best-selling vehicles for the Detroit auto companies and said to be their most profitable products. As such, the Big Three automakers are keen to defend these cash cows against rising gas prices. All three are working on hybrid and fully electric trucks.