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Why Does the Short-Bed Single-Cab Pickup Even Exist?

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author photo by Chris O'Neill November 2017

I was driving along recently when I noticed something a bit … oxymoronic. A single-cab, short-bed Ford F-150.

Huh, I thought.

A full-size pickup that's smaller, less voluminous and incapable of carrying as many people as a comparably priced midsize truck. Since I first made this observation, I started noticing these oddly configured pickups more and more. Now, every time I see one I kind of laugh -- because, despite being relatively impractical, they're kind of novel.

Shortbed GMC

Who buys these? Why do they exist? I needed to know, so I did a bit of research. Of the six brands offering a full-size pickup for sale in the United States, only Ford, Chevrolet, GMC and RAM offer this single cab, short-bed configuration. Toyota offered it in the past, but discontinued the single-cab Tundra altogether for 2017, and Nissan only offers the single-cab Titan in a long-bed configuration.

Configured this way, each of the aforementioned full-size trucks starts in the $28,000-$30,000 range and tops out in the low-$40,000 range.

Of the four brands offering this configuration, only the GM brands also offer a midsize pickup -- the Colorado and the Canyon. I went on to compare the Silverado 1500 to the Colorado, and there's a lot of overlap with between the two. Towing capacity and payload are surprisingly similar when comparing V6-equipped models. It's hard to find a real advantage to the full-size until you opt for a more powerful engine.

Shortbed Toyota

And so we return to my question: Who buys these? I'm grasping at straws here, but here's what I've come up with:

  1. People who just need a cheap truck for getting things done. Maybe you're extremely price-sensitive and just want to buy the cheapest possible version of an F-150. Optioned with a larger engine, this configuration offers the least expensive way to get into a vehicle with ample towing and payload capacity.
  2. The same people who opt for the 2-door Wrangler or the 2-door Volkswagen GTI. Some people, for whatever reason, prefer only two doors -- and I can see how that person might also like a short, stubby truck bed to go along with them.
  3. Companies that buy them in bulk, which would drive down the cost of each vehicle. Fleet sales come to mind here.

Shortbed Chevy Silverado

Given how relatively low the take rate has to be on these trucks, the fact that they're even offered at all comes down the availability of a profit margin. GM and Ford and Chrysler sell enough full-size pickups in all shapes and sizes that even these oddly configured versions can turn a profit. Plus, you can bet that GM is going to see a considerably higher profit margin on a Silverado than on a Colorado. This allows them to fill these niche market areas better than Toyota or Nissan, whose full-size pickups sell in considerably lower volumes.

So there's my attempt at explaining the rationale behind these odd pickups. I'm not a full-size truck expert, though, so if there's anything I've left out or failed to consider, please let me know in the comments. I'm dying to put this one to rest.

Chris O'Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He managed to work in the auto industry for a while without once crashing a corporate fleet vehicle. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Why Does the Short-Bed Single-Cab Pickup Even Exist? - Autotrader