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The evolution of pickup trucks throughout the years was driven by the need to increase their payload capacity and enhance their all-terrain capability. But somewhere along the way, between Ford’s popular 1925 Model T Runabout and the 2023 F-150, the focus of the evolution shifted.

Pickup trucks transformed from workhorses for farms and construction sites to family vehicles for everyday use. And with each new iteration, manufacturers strive to make them even more appealing for family use. What are some of the reasons behind this shift?

2023 GMC Sierra 1500 interior
2023 GMC Sierra 1500 interior

Pickup trucks are muchmore than workhorses these days

For decades, pickup trucks were relatively simple and practical. Four wheels, a basic bench seat, and a bed. However, this meant that people had to own separate vehicles for work and family use. After all, who wants to take an uncomfortable, rough-riding, noisy, and probably hideous truck on a family outing or errand?

As pickup trucks became more popular, manufacturers began designing them to be more like cars. This helped them to appeal not just to those that need a workhorse but also to individuals and families looking for a practical family vehicle. According to Consumer Reports, these changes in design and features have helped increase their appeal and sales, making them a popular choice for many drivers.

How automakers evolved pickup trucks into family vehicles

1. Bigger and more comfortable cabin

Until the ’80s, only single-cab pickup trucks were available, but they could only comfortably fit two or three people. Their limited capacity made them impractical as family cars.

The introduction of crew-cab and double cab pickups made the vehicle more appealing to families as it is spacious and comfortable, similar to what is found in modern vehicles. The larger cabin played a significant role in turning pickup trucks into luxury family vehicles, as almost 80% of pickup sales are crew-cabs.

Manufacturers have made the larger interior more comfortable, with some models featuring leather interiors, heated seats, and other comfort features. Modern pickup trucks are akin to high-end SUVs.

2. Focus on safety features

Pickup trucks have traditionally been built for their utility and ruggedness, with less emphasis on safety features. However, in recent years, manufacturers have recognized the importance of safety.

They have improved crash test ratings and added other safety features like lane departure and forward-collision warning. Making pickups safer has made them more appealing options for families.

Additionally, the size and weight of pickup trucks make them safe. They are bigger and heavier than smaller cars, so people generally feel safer.

3. Filled with the latest technology

The modern pickup truck is equipped with the latest technology to appeal to families accustomed to having advanced technology features in their vehicles. These technology features include driver assistance systems, connected mobile apps, a 360-degree camera, wireless phone connectivity, infotainment, and other amenities.

4. Drive height

Pickup trucks are larger than typical family vehicles, with higher ground clearance and a commanding view of the road. This height advantage helps navigate rough terrain and gives pickup truck drivers a better view of their surroundings.

This feature can make navigating busy streets and parking lots easier and safer, which appeals to both individuals and families.

5. Truck bed versatility

Pickup trucks have always been known for their cargo-carrying capabilities, and the truck bed versatility adds another dimension to their utility.

Although the pickup beds are getting smaller as the cabin space gets bigger, even the 4.3ft bed offered by the Hyundai Santa Cruz is enough for most things that can’t fit inside a car’s trunk, such as bikes, furniture, oddly shaped items, etc.

This versatility makes it an excellent vehicle for family activities like road trips and outdoor adventures.

Pickup trucks will continue growing in popularity

Pickups have transformed from workhorses for farms and construction sites to luxury family vehicles. This shift was brought about by the changes in design and features discussed in this guide.

The advancements have made pickup trucks a popular choice for many drivers, from those needing a workhorse to families looking for a practical, safe, and comfortable family vehicle. And as manufacturers continue to innovate, we can expect pickup trucks to become even more advanced and appeal to more families and individuals.


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