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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 13:38 GMT
The rise of the pick-up truck
Nissan pick-up trucks
Sales are growing in the UK say dealers

By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

While it might have performed poorly in Euro safety tests, the Nissan Navara is helping to draw buyers in the UK to a new type of vehicle - the pick-up truck.

In the US you can't move without tripping over one. George W Bush drives one and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has campaigned from the back of one.

There's something distinctly American about the pick-up, all Bruce Springsteen and O Brother, Where Art Thou. Along with apple pie, baseball and the diner, the truck is a firm part of Americana. But now they're winning over British car buyers.

US President George W Bush
The all-American vehicle
The design of the Nissan Navara might have been criticised by Euro NCap, the European body responsible for testing new cars, but it highlights how these "rough and tough" off-road vehicles are become increasingly popular in the UK.

"You see them everywhere and a lot of people are now buying them for family run-arounds," says motoring journalist Adam Rayner.

"They're practical, with more than two doors, sumptuous interiors and room in the back for all sorts. They're a lot more fun than the typical family saloon."

But their practicality is only part of their increasing popularity. Appearance and price - they start in the region of 16,000 - both play a part.

"These vehicles are big, sexy things and that appeals to men," says Mr Rayner. "They look good but are much more affordable than something like a Ferrari. Men can be flash with these 'yank tanks' without bankrupting themselves."

'Mid-life crisis market'

Another part of their appeal is to do with tax. They may not be dirt cheap to buy but they can save you money when it comes to road tax. Self-employed people can run pick-ups as commercial vehicles, as well as a family car, and get different road tax restrictions.

"If you have a diesel pick-up you can actually buy it for business use and that's a VAT issue that can save you tremendous amounts of wedge," says Mr Rayner. "It adds to their attraction."

Frank Griffiths started a business in Cheshire selling pick-up trucks with his son five years ago. He says demand is growing all the time. The business gets around 40 enquiries a week, up from just four when it started.

Children in a pick-up truck
They are becoming popular with families
He has sold pick-ups to a whole range of customers, from families to the up-market Malmaison hotel chain, which bought a fleet of them. But the vehicles are very popular with one particular set of car drivers, he says.

"They're a bit of a rich man's toy. I call it the mid-life crisis market.

"I get lots of wealthy businessmen who want something different to drive, they want to stand out from the crowd. They often want high-spec vehicles, with all the gadgets."

He says the pick-up's popularity is not only growing in the UK.

"They're gaining popularity in other countries as well. I have three pick-ups in my garage at the moment ready for shipping overseas, two are going to Jakarta and one to South Africa."

However, they're not becoming popular with everyone, including environmentalists. While engine size can vary, they are not known for their fuel efficiency, especially the bigger American-made vehicles.

'Environmental horror'

With the current backlash against 4X4s, including a possible 25 congestion charge in London, pick-ups could face some hostility.

"Pick-ups are inherently less green than other vehicles because their design is not very aerodynamic," says Mr Rayner.

"Some do have relatively sensible engines because they are designed as work horses, but at the other end of the spectrum you get real monsters. They are an environmental horror."

But the growing popularity of pick-ups could have an unexpected consequence, which will be welcomed by some.

"A lot of the time they're replacing the white van," says Mr Rayner.

Could this signal the end for "white van man"?

Below is a selection of your comments.

Give me a van any day, they're more economical, more spacious for real men to do real things in and more useful. Pick-up trucks are for posers!
A C Fielding, Peterborough, England

Oh good God... I moved to the States two years ago and can't STAND the macho mentality of all these idiots driving around in their yank tanks. I often gloat about how different the UK is to the States (for the better), but I fear we truly are just becoming the 51st State now
Dave, Tampa, FL

In the long run it may be these pickups that help drive more environmentally-friendly fuels. If we all pitch in and make our next car a 4x4, we can burn up the last of the oil reserves quicker and move onto the next stage of energy production!
Huw, llantrisant

The people who buy these 'Yank Tanks' all have a deficiency. I suggest they read their spam e-mail inbox to find a solution, instead of polluting our environment and further congesting our roads.
Sam, UK

Like most over sized cars, they will rarely - if ever - be used for their designed purpose. I suspect we will see even more idiots driving round in these, on their way to work in a bank or most likely an Estate Agents. I think they are dangerous to other road users, bad for the planet and pathetic. Get them off the roads.
James Palmer, Brighton, UK

Dave in Tampa: If the UK is so much better, why did you leave? As for the trucks. They don't fit in this country as parking spaces are too small. All it's going to do is fill up car parks as they take up 2 spaces. And when will you people wake up to the fact that some noddy driving a truck is not going to make any difference to pollution. All those factories in India and China that make the products you so dearly love are polluting the planet. If I could, I'd have a nice BIG truck with BIG 8 litre V8 engine. Vroom vroom!
Chris, Milton Keynes

Yank-Tanks?Americana?Strewth! Pick-up trucks originate from Australia - no really, fair dinkum! They are know as 'utes' here, short for "utility vehicle". They were first rolled off the production line in 1934 at Ford's plant in Geelong, Victoria. Their production was allegedly inspired by a letter from a farmer's wife who wanted a vehicle she could travel to church in without getting soaked, but still carry pigs. The majority of "ute" drivers here seem to be "tradies" or tradesmen. I've never seen a pig in one though.
John Gillespie, Sydney, Australia (UK ex-pat)

Another story to arouse the anti-4x4 lobby! I used to drive a hugely low consuming Fiat 126. It was enough for me and a friend to go off with a weekends luggage and 2 mountain bikes on the back seat. Anybody criticising the use of these 4x4s and driving around in anything larger than a Citroen C2, Fiat Panda (with trailer if needs be)... is a hypocrite.
Steve , Sheffield, UK

My husband has a pick up and it's fantastic. Not a big expensive one, but one with a reasonably small diesel engine. It's been great while we're renovating our house, tip trips, saves on delivery costs (in big lorries) and is much more economical than a "white van" or my old 1.8 litre celica, which I no longer have. He uses public transport for work but we still get criticism from idiots like you lot. I assume none of you own cars with more than a 1 litre engine...
Ruth, Northampton

Enviroment junkies should get a reality check. These pick-ups are just that, pick ups. Where has the freedom of choice gone in this country? They're no worse than most other cars. As for size, compare the footprint on the road to a normal saloon, it's only just higher.
Steve, Norfolk

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