THE SHOP

June '19

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42 THE SHOP JUNE 2019 VEHICLE VERSATILITY Aside from pursuit of alternative fuels and advancements in technology, perhaps the biggest impact on the professional market segment is the vehicle platform selection itself. As it applies to traditional pickups: "With a military pedigree, early versions were raised on farmland and weaned on hard labor," says automotive blog The Engine Blog in a recent feature called The Evolution of the Pickup Truck, from Work Horse to Luxury Chauffeur. Nowadays, the modern pickup serves as a triple-threat. Equal parts Built Ford Tough, family hauler and weekend warrior, "Pickups are better positioned than ever before to be everything to everyone. This is especially true of workers who require a multifunctional vehicle that can transition from the rock quarry to a wedding venue without batting an eye—or even drawing attention," notes The Engine Block. Although NTEA reports that the light- and medium-duty market segments struggled somewhat in 2018, with class 2–5 sales essen- tially flat as compared to 2017, statistics say an incredible 2.94 million full- and mid-size pickup trucks were sold in 2018, which is still a 4.34-percent increase from 2017. Innovation is helping drive excitement. Fournier, for instance, is eager to see the return of the Ford Ranger. "That was a very popular fleet vehicle for many years. Ford may have waited too long to bring it back. All those customers had to find an alternative," but interest appears to be high. "(The OEMs) have modified the very DNA of these vehicles, forcing the hands of evolution, and molding the pickup truck into a machine that can serve all masters simultaneously," The Engine Block adds. One only needs to look at various chassis, engine and interior configurations that accommodate both personal use and a variety of workforces, or the rising number of fleet operators who are confident in electrifying their vehicle systems, to see that versatility rules the day when it comes to professional vehicles. Though utility/telecom and worksite light operation are among the top cat- egories credited with electrification, it is becoming more mainstream across a variety of sectors, including an 11-percent jump in environmental controls. As for bells and whistles, modern pickups check all the boxes, with cabins rivaling many luxury models. "If we even go back two models on the F-150, there were big improvements over previous generations. From 2009-'14, there was another jump in advancement. But for 2015-current, it's a whole new game. We're talking features and options from luxury cars and SUVs, like auto high beams, crash prevention, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, multi-camera view, etc.," says Cory Bride, owner of Hi-Caliber Motorsports. VANS: WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER As if the evolution of the pickup is not impressive enough, a c c o rd i n g t o Wo r k Tr u c k Magazine, "The early-2000s introduction of the Euro- style Mercedes-Benz Sprinter sparked a renaissance in the van segment," giving vocational truck If your restyl- ing business is equipped to handle fleet and professional truck and van upfitting, now is the time to closely monitor what's happening in the professional mar- ket. (Photo courtesy MORryde) Fleet work is so strong that even major retailers like Pep Boys have launched special programs to serve professionals on the go. (Photo courtesy Pep Boys) Pickups are better positioned than ever before to be ev- erything to everyone. (Photo courtesy Stowe Cargo Systems) Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to profession- al vehicles. (Photo courtesy Work Truck Solutions) WORK IT OUT

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