Pickups make up a small portion of vehicle sales in China, and that’s not surprising given these vehicles have long been restricted in urban areas throughout the nation. But the tide is changing, and Ford and General Motors are pushing to bring pickups to premium buyers in the world’s largest auto market.
Chevrolet said this month that it will sell Colorados and Silverados in China starting next year. In the same vein, Ford is shipping over the F-150 Raptor from Michigan to China in 2017. It’s possible Ford will also introduce more mainstream F-150s to China as well, depending on demand and regulations, reports Reuters.
“The people who buy the Raptor maybe own some other premium vehicle already. This is another toy,” Wesley Liu, Ford’s Asia-Pacific sales director, told Reuters. Buyers for the truck will fall into four categories, he says: the wealthy, business owners, drivers who want an all-purpose vehicle, and “gearheads.”
Parts of China are starting to encourage more pickups on the road. Although most cities in China restrict trucks to overnight driving, four different provinces have launched pilot programs bringing pickups to urban areas to stimulate the economy and promote vehicle sales.
“China’s pick-up truck market will be very large in the future,” predicts Yan Ningya, an official involved in the pilot project in the Hebei province.
Chinese automakers including Great Wall and Jiangling already sell pickup trucks, but models from GM and Ford promise to attract more premium buyers. Imported pickups should command a 25 percent import tax, making them a bit of a luxury purchase.
Even before U.S. automakers arrive to take a piece of the pie, the pickup movement is starting to catch on in China. Sales this year are expected to reach 368,791 pickups, an increase of 14 percent, according to data from financial services company IHS Markit. That means pickups will account for 1.4 percent of the market in China. That’s still a far cry from the 2.7 million pickups expected to be sold in the U.S. this year, making up 15 percent of the vehicle market on our shores.