The Driver’s Seat Editorial – Special Editions
It seems that every time I turn around these days there's a new special edition of something. There are one-off soft drinks, movies released with special bonus features, albums with extra, never-before-released songs, etc.—I could keep going. It's certainly a fantastic marketing tool and helps get or keep people interested in the product, even if it's one that they never intended to buy. This approach comes straight out of Marketing 101.
The auto industry has been no stranger to this approach, either, and has been offering special editions and limited-availability models practically since its birth in the early 1900s. The truck side of the business has dabbled in this area as well with models like Chevy's 454SS, Ford's Lightning, and Ram's SRT-10 pickup. However, as the auto industry slowed down during the late 2000s, a good bulk of the special edition models went away as well. At the time it just didn't make financial sense to be producing these low-volume, low-margin trucks.
Fortunately, the auto industry recovered and we're now seeing a resurgence of factory special editions and limited models. One could argue it was Ford's F-150 Raptor that broke the ice and has led to this new wave of fun trucks. It's been said that Raptor's worst year of sales was still better than the best year for the Lightning. All this means for us, the consumers, are more options when we visit the dealer. This is a win-win-win! Customers get more choices, dealers have flashy trucks to draw people onto their lots, and the manufacturers sell more units.
In the last year we've seen at least one model from almost all of the truck manufacturers. Ram introduced us to the Black Express: a model described as "black on black on black" and built on the motto of "if it can be black, make it black." This truck sports 20-inch black aluminum wheels, blacked-out emblems, LED taillights, and so much more. And what's best is this model is built on the Express trim level, so it won't break the bank to get an attention grabbing customized truck right from the dealer.
Ford just showed us the SE appearance package for the '16 F-150. Added to a Lariat model, the SE package gets unique 20-inch wheels, exterior graphics, black running boards, a dark anodized grille with red accents, and custom leather seats with red accents and stitching. This model is built on a higher-end trim and is likely to have a bit steeper price tag attached, but for the person wanting an attention-getting F-150, there's none better.
Chevy has taken the special edition concept and fully embraced it. The company is offering six custom Silverado 1500s for '15. The Silverado Rally Edition is built on an LT trim and can be had in extended or Crew Cab. It comes with a body-colored grille, gloss-black door handles and mirror caps, 22-inch wheels, black 4-inch tube steps, and black racing-stripe graphics and Bowties. The Midnight Edition Silverado is built on a Z71 platform and is totally blacked out. However, if you wanted one, it might be too late, as Chevy says the Midnight is sold out. Custom Sport and Custom Sport Plus also begin life as a Z71 and come in either black or white and sport a chrome grille, accents, and 20-inch wheels. If you wanted a Midnight and can't get it, don't fret, the Black Out Edition is still available. Built on the affordable WT trim, the Black Out gets black 20-inch wheels, tinted windows, black grille, and black Bowties. It's a pretty sinister looking pickup. And last is the Texas Longhorns Edition, which is also no longer available for purchase.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also at least acknowledge Toyota's TRD Baja Tacoma and the TRD Pro Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner. Chevy also offers up the Colorado Z71 Trail Boss and Midnight Edition. There's also Jeep with the Wrangler Rubicon X, Willys, Freedom, Hard Rock, and Altitude. There is also my personal favorite: the Grand Cherokee SRT.
Seeing the return of factory customized is nothing but good for the industry as a whole. It gives buyers the option of having a custom looking truck that is backed by the factory warranty and allows them the ability to finance the purchase, instead of coming out of pocket for the modifications after the fact. I, for one, am excited to see where this new trend goes and what trucks hit the market in the near future.