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Published: Wednesday, 3/13/2002

More women consumers pick up on attraction of owning trucks

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Ellen Belcik, of Walbridge, has moved up to a Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab from a compact pickup truck. Ellen Belcik, of Walbridge, has moved up to a Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab from a compact pickup truck.
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For Ellen Belcik, a fascination with pickups began in the mid-1990s with a compact Chevrolet S-10 that was soon replaced by a full-size Chevrolet Silverado.

She got her latest pickup prize last month. This truck has four doors and four-wheel drive and features that lend themselves to either dressy or labor-intensive outings: a Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab.

“I just keep getting bigger - next one will be a semi,” the Walbridge resident joked. “I can't see myself going back to a car.

“This one rides better than some of the cars I've had. The interior is just as luxurious as one of the cars.”

Women made up a small proportion of pickup buyers 20 years ago. But today, about 10 percent of full-size pickup and 20 percent of compact-pickup buyers in the United States are women, according to AutoPacific, Inc., a consulting firm in Tustin, Calif.

Still, sport-utility vehicles remain more popular than comparable pickups for women. For example, 11 percent of full-size Toyota Tundra pickups are bought by women, compared with 30 percent of full-size Toyota Sequoia SUVs, according to AutoPacific.

Many local dealerships, though, can beat the national pickup numbers.

About half of all pickups at Mathews Ford Oregon, Inc., are bought by women, up from 20 percent in the mid-1990s, said John Becerra, sales manager. That compares with national numbers of 12 percent for Ford F-Series pickups and 20 percent for Ford Rangers, according to the most recent Auto Pacific statistics.

“It's phenomenal how much the ratio has changed,” Mr. Becerra said. “For one, Ford Motor Co. has done a lot better job with the designing of the trucks.”

Today's pickups in general have better ride, handling, features, and space than their forebears, said officials at various local dealerships.

“They're more appealing,” said Bob Knapp, new car sales manager for Sylvania's Vin Devers, Inc. “Women want to set a different example, that they can stand alone, be on their own, be independent.”

Ms. Belcik, a Vin Devers customer, said she liked the Ram's looks better than those of pickups made by Chevrolet and Ford, and its height and price were appealing, too. Four-wheel drive is crucial for her 25-mile commute for her job as a deputy with the Wood County sheriff's office, and she can use the pickup's bed or back seat for hauling, she said.

“I've got it all,” she said.

At Vin Devers, the compact Dodge Dakota pickup is the most popular among women, who make up 20 to 30 percent of the model's buyers. About 10 percent to 15 percent of full-size Dodge Ram buyers are women, Mr. Knapp said.

But at Thayer Chevrolet in Bowling Green, women are most interested in full-size Chevrolet Silverado pickups, said Tom Clark, sales manager. About 20 percent of Silverado purchases are solely for women, he said.

The pickup was redesigned for the 1999 model year and has a back seat that is big enough for adults, Mr. Clark said. That improvement, combined with lots of cargo room, a car-like ride, and good visibility, has made the Silverado popular, he said.

“Nobody seems to be intimidated by the size of the vehicle anymore,” he said.



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