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But even bigger announcements may be on the horizon. Recently, auto companies have begun exploring the potential for a “lifestyle” pickup: a smaller, more fuel efficient unibody pickup that offers a car-like ride combined with modest towing and hauling capabilities. One example is Toyota’s A-BAT hybrid concept. Shown at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, the A-BAT is a four-seat hybrid pickup with a four-foot rear bed and roof-mounted solar panels to charge its onboard accessories. Another concept introduced this year, the GMC Denali XT, also boasts a hybrid powertrain and unibody construction, and claims 50 percent higher fuel economy than similar-sized pickups.
At this point, the A-BAT and the Denali XT are only for show, but they hint at automakers’ future plans for transforming the design and efficiency of the pickup. One out of every eight American carbuyers opted for a full-sized pickup last year, but as fuel costs rise and CAFE standards tighten, this segment will shrink unless the pickup evolves.