The Chicken Tax: Why We Don’t Have More Light Pickups

Around the end of May last year, HSV, the performance wing of the Australian Holden brand, unveiled the Gen-F Maloo R8 SV. It is a snarling, 425-horsepower, V8 beast of a ute, but sadly we will never see it here on American shores. Sure, it is as extreme as you can get for a vehicle with a pickup bed, but there are plenty of other small trucks that the world enjoys that car far more practical. Sadly, those trucks will have as much a chance of sale in the US as leaded paint. So what gives? Blame it on the Chicken Tax.

RELATED: See Photos of the HSV Gen-F Maloo R8 SV

The year was 1963, and the countries of France and West Germany imposed tariffs on imports of US chickens. In response, the Untied States, under leadership from President Lyndon B. Johnson imposed a tariff on potato starches dextrin, brandy and light pickup trucks. In the subsequent years, the restrictions on these goods were lifted, save for pickups, as an effort to protect the interests of domestic pickup truck producers.

Through the years, automakers have gone to great lengths to circumvent the Chicken Tax. Ford, for example imported the Transit Connect commercial vehicle as a passenger vehicle, and stripped down the vans upon importation. The move costs thousands of dollars for Ford, but saves thousands more in taxes. Meanwhile, the American automaker killed off the domestic Ranger, and yet the international version (below) soldiers on as a superior machine.

RELATED See Photos of the Ford Transit Connect

Ford Ranger Euro
Ford Ranger Euro

The loopholes just don’t work for these pickups, thus there is a great gap in the automotive marketplace, left by import brands, who don’t want to deal with the minuscule profit margins, and domestic brands, who can make more by selling base model full-size trucks to the masses.

RELATED: See Photos of the 2012 Ford Ranger Wildtrack

But I don’t want a full size pickup. Sure, the all-new Chevy Colorado is on the way, but I want a ute with a GM V8 under the hood. And I don’t want to spend my life’s saving making that a reality. I’m not alone, but unfortunately, this strange practice continues, and the Chicken Tax remains. As a financial think tank once called it, the Chicken Tax is a “a policy in search of a rationale.”