Why Europeans Go Through the Hassle of Importing American Pickup Trucks

When it comes to pickup truck selection, Europe gets a mixed bag. On the one hand, they get mid-size offerings like the Ford Ranger Raptor and Ram 700, and the US doesn’t. Although, trucks like the F-150 Raptor and Ram Power Wagon aren’t available across the pond. But if we Americans want a Ranger Raptor, we can turn to PaxPower. Europeans need to go to special providers to import a full-size American pickup truck. But considering what’s involved, why?

The Current State of the European Pickup Truck

Mercedes-Benz X-Class
Mercedes-Benz X-Class | Mercedes-Benz

Overall, Europe has a different perspective on pickup trucks than the US. Here, the most popular trucks are full-size and becoming increasingly luxurious. On the other hand, most of the pickups sold in Europe are mid-size and skew heavily towards the utilitarian. That’s one reason why Mercedes’ X-Class pickup didn’t sell very well—too upscale for the market. Generally speaking, when Europeans have wanted luxury, they turned to SUVs.

Morris JE Lineup
Morris JE Lineup | Morris Commercial

Looking at what drives the European auto market, these trends make sense. Cities in Europe are close together, and streets are considerably smaller in scale than in the US. Fuel is also significantly more expensive. That’s why many of the work vehicles there are cargo vans, such as the Sprinter or Morris JE. These are more compact and fuel-efficient than many pickups, especially ones on the scale of the Ram 1500 or Ford F-150.

Fiat Fullback
Fiat Fullback | Fiat

However, this is starting to change. Europeans are starting to buy more pickups, and automakers are hurrying to keep up with the market growth. Some are partnering with each other to cut costs and introduce new models more quickly. That’s why, for example, the new Fiat Fullback is based on the Mitsubishi L200. You might be asking, why would FCA build a Mitsubishi-based pickup, when the existing Jeep Gladiator is mid-size?

For the same reasons why importing an American pickup into Europe makes little sense on the surface: the costs of importation and legalization.

How to Bring an American Pickup Truck to Europe

2018 Sutton Ford F-150 Monster Raptor
2018 Sutton Ford F-150 Monster Raptor | Clive Sutton UK

As CarFax and Jalopnik explain, Europe and the US have completely different automotive regulations. Crash standards, headlights, and especially emissions. That’s one of the biggest reasons why the US doesn’t get the Ranger Raptor: its diesel engine isn’t EPA-certified. To import a truck like a Ram 1500 into Europe means making installing or modifying the truck, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Importers like SCL Rotterdam and AGT Europe are certified to deal with all this, but it still leaves European consumers paying an additional premium.

But they do.

Why Europeans are Importing American Pickups

For one, American pickups are different. They stand out from everything else on European roads, in size and overall design. For some people, that’s enough. But American pickups do offer several advantages over their European counterparts.

2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman
2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman | Ram

As Trucks.com describes, American pickups offer more space. Both for work gear, and for family trips. American trucks’ engines also offer more torque, which is what you need to tow things like caravans and trailers. As CarBuzz details, Europeans used to turn to SUVs like the Land Rover Defender to tow cargo. But because of emissions regulations, SUVs and body-on-frame pickups went away, to be replaced by crossovers with small engines. So, as Smith n Sniff described in their Ranger Raptor review, you really need a pickup.

And although American pickups aren’t as fuel-efficient, running one in Europe is actually cheaper than some people realize. For one, some countries offer tax breaks for people buying pickups for work-related purposes. For another, although some American pickups now offer turbocharged engines, many are equipped with naturally-aspirated ones. These are tuned to run on American gasoline, which is lower-octane and therefore cheaper.

Importing an American pickup into Europe may not be easy. But it does make a certain amount of sense.