Trucks are on the rise at this year's Columbus International Auto Show, with new models and heightened competition for your dollars. The show, which opened yesterday, features 41 auto and motorcycle brands and several hundred models. It runs through the weekend at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

March 14, 2014

Trucks are on the rise at this year's Columbus International Auto Show, with new models and heightened competition for your dollars.

The show, which opened yesterday, features 41 auto and motorcycle brands and several hundred models. It runs through the weekend at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

On one side of the hall, Ford is displaying the 2015 F-150, whose aluminum body has been the talk of the auto industry. The redesigned model goes on sale in the fall.

On the opposite side, General Motors is showing off its recently redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

Across the aisle from the F-150, Ram has brought back its "Off-Road Experience," in which the public can drive the brand's trucks through an indoor obstacle course.

With so many choices, potential truck buyers had plenty to mull.

"In my opinion, if you stick with Chevy, Ford or Ram, you're OK," said Bill Reeves, 47, of Lancaster. "I think most truck guys would agree."

Tammy Abrams, 43, of Worthington, would not agree. She drives a Honda Ridgeline.

"I don't think I'll drive anything else," she said.

Ford is using an aluminum body to reduce weight and improve fuel economy. The automaker is using terms such as "military-grade" to describe the metal, hoping to head off concerns about the body's durability.

"I think most truck customers can see that aluminum is used in most of the things they use today, from ladders to military vehicles," said Eric Peterson, marketing manager for the F-150, who was in Columbus on Wednesday to promote the vehicle.

But some consumers might need more convincing.

"I'm thinking of making a purchase, but I'm going to wait three or four years to see how it goes," said Wayne Krob, 54, of Worthington. He would be replacing another Ford F-150 pickup.

The truck segment has suffered in recent years, hurt by a decrease in purchases by businesses and other economic factors.

Pickup trucks accounted for 14 percent of all light vehicles sold last year, which was down from a recent high of 19 percent in the early 2000s, according to data compiled by Edmunds.com.

Although truck sales have fallen, Ford's F-Series, which includes the F-150, remains the country's top-selling vehicle, with 763,402 sold last year.

The Silverado is second on the truck list with 480,414, followed by Ram with 355,673. No other truck model sold more than 200,000 units.

This year's auto show also has the following:

• Honda is sponsoring the "Ugliest Car in Columbus" contest, with finalists on display. The public can vote for the winner, who will get a new Civic.

• Mazda is offering a ride-and-drive event, in which the public can take test drives on a course next to the convention center.

• Ford is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Mustang with a collection of the model's designs through the decades.

dgearino@dispatch.com

@dispatchenergy