By George Polgar

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — While the public is fascinated by new developments in alt-fuel and autonomous vehicles, ride sharing and some even still hold out hope for flying cars, the pick-up truck market is the existential struggle of the US auto industry.

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While US auto sales are down about 3% for 2017, the pick-up truck business is up 4%. The pick-up segment is vital for auto manufacturers because these are high-margin products and, in the case of Ford which has long dominated the field with its F-150 series, represents most of the global company’s profits.

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And within the hierarchy of competitors, strong pick-up sales have other benefits. Though the aggressive challenge to Ford supremacy mounted by Chevrolet Silverado in the past two years has not unseated the leader, it has gained market share and conquest sales for the brand, as the Silverado is clearly the best truck ever made by GM.

The RAM 1500 has snagged a second place sales finish in recent months, which is good news for struggling FCA.

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The Toyota Tundra, the all new Nissan Titan, and even the mid-sized Honda Ridgeline provide foreign brands credibility and big profits.