With pickup truck sales in a 13 percent decline this year (2006),
manufacturers feel a heightened sense of urgency over the [Texas State ]
fair's potential effect on sales. Industry executives say one out of every
four vehicles sold in Texas is a pickup, as compared to one out of eight
elsewhere in the United States.
"This is the high-stakes game, a shootout at the OK Corral," said David Cole
chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "It's got all
the drama you could imagine, but with trucks as major players."
The Texas battleground is so fierce that companies dispatch teams of
high-ranking executives and engineers to visit the fair and tout their new
or redesigned models. As one manufacturer unveils its latest version,
engineers from other companies armed with tape measures and note pads pounce
to do a quick study of their newest competitor.
And each year, new model introductions seem to get more elaborate. Ford's
new model F-450 -- top executive Mark Fields in the driver's seat -- was
lowered by crane 75 feet to the ground. Fields, Ford's president of the
Americas, later was joined by company spokesman and country western singer
Toby Keith, who pulled up in another F-450.
"This is ground zero for truck leadership," Fields told The Associated
Press. "If you don't show up in Texas, particularly at a venue like the
state fair, you might as well not show up at all. This is where you duke it
out. It's where you make your bones as far as burnishing truck production."