The competition to own the biggest truck on the block has finally reached its zenith. The Detroit News tells us that pickup truck sales continue to “crater.”

GM and Ford Motor Co. announced plans to cut North American vehicle output in the third quarter to pare their stocks of unsold [pickup] trucks.

“That market is sitting back a bit,” said Gary Dilts, senior vice president of sales at DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group. “But the core of the truck business — a very large percentage — will remain, because they need that kind of vehicle.”

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Garbage in = garbage out. A small percentage of people who buy these trucks actually need them.

GM’s Ballew said the automaker needed to better explain the fuel-saving technologies it has developed, such as engines that deactivate some cylinders when full power isn’t needed. “That’s not as easy to communicate as saying, ‘I’ve got a (Toyota) Prius,’.” he said.

Just imagine that you are at a party when some guy walks up and says,

“My full-sized pickup has fuel-saving technology in the form of an engine that can deactivate some cylinders when full power isn’t needed, hic.”

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You take a sip of your beer and say, “I’ve got a Prius.”

He says, “Hell, every guy has got one of those, hic.”

“I said Prius, not…”

A woman suddenly pops out of your beer and says, “You are a buffet of manliness.”

You have a sudden urge to eat a candy bar. Hey, advertising works.

I was watching parents pick up their kids at a private school the other day. One giant SUV after another rolled up — expensive ones like the Cadillac Escalade and Toyota Land Cruiser. At one point, there were three in a row, each driven by a petite mom with one hand on the steering wheel (which they could not turn without power steering) and the other on a cell phone. If they only new how ridiculous they looked sitting atop these behemoths, at least to me.

Calling these Sport/Utility vehicles was a marketing coupe. These women wouldn’t be caught dead in a utility vehicle. However, a sport vehicle portrays an image of leisure, wealth, and health. Never mind that there are no sports you can do in one of these cars. Driving to a ski lodge doesn’t count.

They are just as susceptible to subliminal cues as to what is cool as the rest of us. Depending on your peers, tattoos and piercings may be cool, or business suits and ties. This is what we are. Using guilt to change behavior has its limits. The environmental movement should know this after thirty or so years of trying to change people’s behavior with that tactic.

Changing the subliminal messages that tell us what is cool would work a lot better. Detroit is doing everything it can to plant the message that driving great big trucks and cars that have the potential to run on ethanol is not only cool, it’s green. It is pretty much up to the blogosphere to say that it isn’t. Which means that people who only watch TV are going to continue to buy big trucks and cars equipped to run on ethanol right up until their fuel bills eat their car payments.