Texas loves trucks. In other news, sky is blue, dog bites man, traffic on the 405.
But recently automakers are returning the love to the Lone Star State by using the annual Texas State Fair as a de facto truck show.
This past weekend, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler's Ram division each used the 2013 fair to debut new heavy-duty trucks, special-edition trucks and ad campaigns to a crowd that is estimated annually at 3 million people. The state fair opened Friday, and will run through Wednesday.
Texas' appetite for trucks can't be understated. Ford sells one out of every five trucks in Texas. Meanwhile, Ram and Chevrolet each see 16% of their truck sales happen in the state (all three report that California is their next biggest market).
With so many truck fans in one place, the automakers see the fair as a can't-miss marketing opportunity to make news. Here's a round-up of what each brand brought to the rodeo.
Chevrolet gets top billing this year at the fair, having signed on again as the official sponsor of the event. Last year, about 40,000 people took part in Chevrolet's ride and drive exhibit, according to state fair officials.
With such a stage at their disposal, Chevy and GMC brought out their Silverado HD and Sierra HD models. Each is the heavy duty version of the more mainstream trucks GM put on sale at the end of the summer.
The trucks will be available with one of three engines. In the Silverado HD and Sierra HD 2500 models, a base 6.0-liter V-8 makes 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. In 3500 models, horsepower falls to 322. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
For the truly brawny tasks, GM will offer an optional 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel motor that makes 397 horsepower and an earth-churning 765 pound-feet of torque. This engine is mated to a six-speed Allison transmission with a tow/haul function standard.
Finally, a unique version of the 6.0-liter V-8 engine can be ordered in either brand's truck that will accommodate either gasoline or compressed natural gas, for commercial fleets that have converted to natural gas as an energy source.
Each HD version has a payload of 7,374 pounds, which GM says is the most of any HD pickup available. Conventional towing is a class-leading 19,600 pounds, while fifth-wheel towing tops out at 23,200 pounds.
As with their non-HD counterparts, these new Sierra and Silverado models will be available with safety features like forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and front and rear park assist. These heavy-duty GM trucks will roll into dealerships in early 2014.
Chevrolet Concept trucks:
Not content with just showing off the production Silverado HD, Chevy also brought a pair of concept trucks to the Texas State Fair.
The first is a Silverado Black Ops Concept. Calling it "a survival kit on wheels," this truck is a modified Silverado Crew Cab 4x4. Bolted to its underside is custom body armor, while a new front bumper includes a winch and LED spotlight. An LED lightbar is also mounted in the truck's bed as part of a storage rack, which also holds a generator, and gas and water cans.
The truck rides on stock 18-inch wheels from Chevrolet's Z71 package that are wrapped in off-road tires, and the suspension has been lifted.
On the more benevolent side, Chevy also brought the Volunteer Firefighter Concept truck. Hoping to call attention to the fact that 90% of all fire departments are all or mostly volunteer units, Chevy said it built the concept with input from the National Volunteer Fire Council.
This concept starts as a Silverado double cab with the optional Z71 off-road suspension option. Chevy then added a variety of accessories like 22-inch wheels, an emergency roof light bar, 3M reflective-covered seats, and an LED light bar and storage rack.
After showing these two concepts at the Texas State Fair, the duo will head to the annual SEMA gathering in Las Vegas, where they will be on display Nov. 5-8.
Chevrolet may have been the official truck sponsor of the Texas State Fair, but Ford wasn't about to let it hog all the attention, and used the event to show off a pair of new updates.
Ford's biggest news was its 2015 lineup of Super Duty trucks. The F-250, 350 and 450 all use a 6.7-liter, turbocharged diesel engine, and for 2015 it will get more power via a host of upgrades including a larger turbocharger.
Ford didn't announce just how much more power, saying only that it would be "beyond today's 400 horsepower and 800 lb.-ft. of torque." Despite these gains, Ford promised that fuel economy would continue to be the segment's best.
The 2015 F-450 in particular gets its own set of improvements. The new model will now ride on 19.5-inch wheels, and Ford says it strengthened the frame and suspension, and added larger brakes for greater durability.
Meanwhile, the luxury truck market is booming, so Ford also used the fair to announce some upgrades to its contender in this very profitable niche of the pickup truck segment.
The first is a revised version of the F-150 King Ranch model. Named after an actual 825,000-acre ranch in Kingsville, Texas, this luxury-grade truck gets an assortment of interior and exterior trim upgrades. These include new leather on the seats, console, armrests and steering wheel, and new paint on the exterior. Pricing on this model hasn't been announced, but the current version starts at a king-sized $44,000.
Chrysler's truck division is riding a wave of accolades (Motor Trend's 2013 Truck of the Year and the 2013 Truck of Texas award, to name a few), and used the Texas State Fair to show off its entire lineup of regular and heavy-duty trucks, as well as reveal a new ad campaign it will soon roll out.
The new "Groundbreaker" spots will use actor Sam Elliott (the deep voice of previous Ram commercials, as well as Coors Banquet beer) to narrate the virtues of Ram's Heavy Duty lineup. These include a class-leading 30,000 pound-feet of towing capability and 850 pound-feet of torque coming from a Cummins Turbo Diesel.
Two of the new ads will begin running on national TV spots soon, with more coming to air later in 2013 and in early 2014.