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What is more functional, or more versatile, than a pickup truck? Not only can one be used to haul whatever can fit in the bed, and to tow a trailer full of whatever can't fit in the bed, a modern pickup can be comfortable and well-appointed enough to be used as daily transportation as well as work. Because of this versatility, and use by everyone from utility companies to construction workers to people who just want something to tow their boat, full-size pickups are the best-selling vehicles in the US. Ford's F-Series has led the pack since seemingly just after the last Ice Age, with the Chevrolet and GMC equivalents right behind. Dodge added style to the once merely functional pickup equation a decade ago, and it hasn't been the same since.
Also adding to the pickup's versatility and appeal is the large variety of body styles available from the major manufacturers, from the simple two-door, regular-cab through extended cabs to long-wheelbase four-door crew cabs that are essentially an SUV with a huge cargo space. And the usually wide variety of engines and two- or four-wheel drive systems available also adds to pickup appeal.
Smaller pickups gained popularity after the 1970s fuel crises, but have slipped in recent years. The Toyota Tacoma is the benchmark in that class, with the Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon filling it out. The Dodge Dakota has filled the gap between small and large since its inception, although it's now closer to a big truck in size.
Pickups, for the most part, are the most conservatively-designed vehicles on the road, with a basic specification that reads like something out of the 1930s: a separate body atop a ladder frame, with a solid rear axle located simply by leaf springs. About the only concession to modernity is independent front suspension. But this formula has been refined considerably, and makes for a very sturdy vehicle that can stand up to hard use and abuse in towing and hauling. It also provides a platform that, with little modification, can be used for a utility vehicle, although SUVs are diverging from their pickup origins.
An interesting new entry in the pickup class is the Honda Ridgeline, the first pickup designed more for personal use than work. It's also the first pickup with car-like unibody construction and four-wheel independent suspension. So far it's the only pickup so built, but it may not be the last.