There's no doubt about it...
When it comes to trucks, Ford (NYSE: F) runs the show.
Year after year, the light-duty Ford F-150 tops the list for best-selling vehicles in the United States.
And of those who use medium or heavy-duty trucks for work, most are Ford customers.
In fact, the Ford F-Series super duty pickup has been the best-selling line of trucks in the U.S. for 34 continuous years. Its market share stands at nearly 50 percent.
In an effort to maintain its reign, Ford also continues to up the ante on power, towing capacity, price, and fuel economy...
The F-150 is actually the most fuel-efficient truck in its class, and the company is set to integrate lighter materials into the truck's body for the 2014 models. This transition to lighter materials will result in a 25 percent increase in miles per gallon.
Although most truck buyers typically look at things like payload and towing capacity first, it's becoming increasingly clear that fuel economy is quickly moving up the priority list for truck buyers.
And why not?
After all, gas isn't going to get any cheaper — and the inflationary storm that's right around the corner isn't going to make it easier for consumers to fill up a 30-gallon tank twice a week...
Although there are plenty of car and truck enthusiasts who won't agree with me on this today, strictly from the big picture on oil prices and inflation, superior fuel economy will be the number one demand for car buyers by the end of this decade.
Hell, just a few months ago, global market research group MarketsandMarkets released a report indicating that by 2017, fuel-efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales will reach $103.1 billion.
Today that market is valued at around $25 billion.
That's some serious growth in less than five years!
Loud and Clear
Listen, automakers don't include miles-per-gallon data in car commercials "just because."
Earlier this year, a senior analyst with Pike Research said market demand is driving the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Pike's research revealed 80 percent of consumers now say fuel efficiency is extremely or somewhat important in their next purchase.
This number ain't going down, my friends. And there isn't a single carmaker on the planet that hasn't heard this message loud and clear.
But when you break down model lineups, options, and diversification, I see no automaker more focused on preparing for an oil-strapped future than Ford.
The company already has the most fuel-efficient model lineup in the industry, and no other automaker has more cars and trucks offering at least 40 miles per gallon than Ford does.
But 40 mpg is just the beginning...
Next year Ford will have a vehicle in showrooms that will go toe-to-toe with Toyota's Prius V, a station wagon delivering a 42 mpg average fuel economy.
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Domination is the Goal
Come 2013, Ford showrooms will shine the spotlight on an SUV crossover that offers more room, better fuel economy, and a lower sticker price than the Prius V, currently the most fuel-efficient multi-purpose vehicle/station wagon on the market.
It's called the C-Max, and it's a pretty sweet car offering all the bells and whistles we expect these days — but with the added bonus of delivering 47 miles per gallon.
I'm quite confident it's this vehicle that will allow Ford to be the first automaker to give Toyota a run for its money in the hybrid market — a market Toyota has dominated for about a decade now, boasting more than 4 million hybrid units sold.
Don't get me wrong; Ford isn't going to just stroll in and steal Toyota customers away with a single car...
Toyota has some serious brand loyalty. I own a Prius and it's honestly one of the best cars I've ever owned.
But this isn't really about what's in showrooms today. This is about what's in development now — and what will dominate the industry by the end of the decade.
I'll tell you one thing: Gas-guzzlers are done.
Fuel-efficient internal combustion vehicles, conventional hybrids, and electric cars are the future.
And all will offer the same styling, luxury, and performance that Americans have come to expect in this car-centric nation.
In other words, superior fuel economy will never again mean compromising on anything.
While I don't have a crystal ball, I do have access to enough relevant data that clearly indicates Ford is likely to be the most well-equipped automaker to thrive in a post-Peak world...
Whether its a more fuel-efficient F-Series, a lineup of competitively-priced hybrids, or a stable of electric vehicles, Ford's focus on superior fuel economy will be its catalyst for steady growth and increased profitability.
To a new way of life and a new generation of wealth...
@JeffSiegel on Twitter
Jeff is the managing editor of Energy and Capital and contributing analyst for the Energy Investor, an independent investment research service focusing primarily on stocks in the oil & gas, modern energy and infrastructure markets. He has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC, and Bloomberg Asia, and is the author of the best-selling book, Investing in Renewable Energy: Making Money on Green Chip Stocks. For more on Jeff, go to his editor''s page.