Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Who Buys a Truck? And Why?

By Michael Donoughe

When Mark Williams asked me to write for Truck Trend, he said he wanted real truck guys to meet a real truck guy. I'm flattered, of course, but it's more important to me and to the people working with me--crucial, in fact--to learn more about you, the real truck guys using our products.

Michael Donoughe V.P., Body-On-Frame Products Team

At Dodge (like all truck makers), we need to know who you are, what you need, and what you want. That knowledge is the first step in making sure we deliver everything you look for in a truck.

Up to the 1990s, Dodge remained a relatively minor player in the truck market and offered a vehicle that had changed little in two decades. Our product development teams decided then it was time for Dodge to make a bold statement. Dodge had to stand up and be counted and create something people were going to either love or hate, but find impossible to ignore.

Dodge sent teams with notebooks and cameras to construction sites, farms and other rural areas, job shops, and fleet operations to see firsthand what people did with their trucks. We took notes, made sketches, and snapped photos of built-in toolboxes, rack systems, and even the homemade interior consoles owners use to make their trucks into rolling offices.

Then, Dodge used those ideas to create its first all-new truck in 22 years: the 1994 Dodge Ram--a big-rig-style truck that tripled its pickup sales in one year and earned us status as a legitimate player in the light-duty pickup market.

That experience taught us that the folks who design and engineer trucks must pour their passion and enthusiasm into every vehicle they create--because real truck guys expect and demand it.

All this led to innovations as diverse as electric-shift four-wheel drive, MP3-compatible radios and dropdown DVD screens, stainproof seat fabric, electronic stability control, power-adjustable pedals, and laptop-friendly consoles. These features and attributes complement capabilities of the powertrains--especially our Hemi V-8s and Cummins turbodiesels--that we integrate into every truck.

Along the way, we also learned a few things about who you are as well:

• Truck owners become "truck people." They become part of a club that includes cowboys, farmers, construction workers, doctors, lawyers, and moms and dads, young and old. Although truck owners connect with the image of the traditional rugged truck buyer in some ways, they really want to do it on their own terms. That's why Dodge offers a portfolio of vehicles that includes basic work trucks, lifestyle trucks like the Dakota, Mega Cab, and Power Wagon, sport/utility vehicles, and commercial chassis cabs.

• People own trucks to turn ordinary experiences into adventures. Going to a garage sale can be more fulfilling when you know you can actually haul away something huge (even if it ends up in your garage and becomes part of your own future yard sale). And you've all seen the guy who parks his 4x4 halfway up the pile of snow in the mall parking lot--that's one way to turn parking at a mall into an adventure.

• People transform their trucks into extensions of their personalities. Few vehicles attract the kind of customization you see in trucks. It starts from the factory: two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, gasoline and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmissions, different wheelbases, box lengths, cab sizes, etc. Beyond that, there's a ton of equipment and accessories to set any truck apart from the rest. OEMs like Dodge do their part as well, with different seating and storage configurations, functional and dress-up equipment, and a work-truck package that can be configured with an auxiliary cab heater, winch, storage racks, and receiver hitch. Plus, a truck doesn't just get you somewhere, it can be part of the destination--the base camp on the fishing trip or the entertainment center at a tailgate party.

• Trucks help people be self-reliant. If you own a truck, you know that whenever a friend or even casual acquaintance moves their household from one place to another, you're the first person they call. It's immensely satisfying for them, even if it's exhausting for you.

With multiple combinations of drivetrains, payload and towing capacities, and cargo-management equipment, Dodge is here to help you become a true truck person. 'Nuff said. Keep on truckin' and thanks!

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