Here in PA you pay annually (plate registration) for the GVW of the truck. We have a second "truck GVW classification" sticker that goes on the front windshield. I suspect PA is not the only state that has that regulation.
I got a 3/4 ton...it is capable of handling the load of my 5ver and the registration is a hundred or two per year less than the higher GVW 1 ton. Over the lifetime of the truck (and I'm conservatively using 10 years; my last vehicle was 16 years old when I got rid of it), I could shell out a thousand or two (or more) for load capacity I don't need to handle the load that I have. That "only $500 to $700 dollars more in upfront purchasing cost..." can quickly, over a 10 year span become $1500 to $2500 more for the 1 ton to have capacity I don't need.
Another thing that I found when "perusing" for trucks; the 3/4 tons tended to be loaded with more "creature comforts", while the 1 ton trucks tended to be aimed at the more utilitarian work environment. Since I don't tow year round, and even if I did, why buy a more stark truck when a nicely equipped 3/4 ton does the job? I could order a 1 ton with all the bells and whistles, but, then why bother, when the 3/4 ton has/had them, would handle the job I was asking of it and would be, potentially, thousands of dollars less over the lifetime of my ownership?
The old days of multiple name plates (branding within the same parent company) doesn't really apply in this case. Back in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s those different name plates, Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler for instance, stood for varying build qualities and "scale" of appointments. The more upscale Plymouth had better build quality, better appointments and more options than the blue collar Dodge, the Chrysler took that up even one more step. What you drove reflected more of your "taste" and "style". A Pontiac was a sporty car, the Buick was the family car and the Oldsmobile was what my father's father drove because he couldn't afford a Cadillac. It wasn't really until the very late 60s, early 70s when the auto industry started to implode that the separate lines all started to be the same in the name of "streamlining", "platform sharing" and "cost cutting".
I imagine in the future, trucks will come in two flavors; the LD and the HD. As has already been mentioned, for most manufacturers, there is virtually no difference in the 250/2500 and the 350/3500 build. My 2500HD SRW has the same engine, frame, running gear and suspension (save the "overload" spring) as the 3500HD SRW. Again, that is done, on the corporate level, as a "cost reduction" move; the company doesn't need a different frame, suspension or power plant inventory...just an additional flat plate of spring steel to put on the stack at assembly to create the added load capacity.
As long as the company is making money by the availability of a 3/4 ton and a 1 ton truck, they'll continue making them even if the truck is identical (how many of you 1 tonners puff up your chest and say, "Well, I've got a 1 ton!" even if you are "over-rated" for your load?. As long as a 3/4 ton will do the job and cost me less over the life of ownership, I'll continue to buy a 3/4 ton. A half ton wouldn't do the job so I didn't get one, a 1 ton was over-rated for my needs and would cost me more over the life of the vehicle; the 3/4 ton fit just right and will be cheaper to own.
At some point in time manufacturers might realize there are savings in eliminating redundant models. Why carry identical F250/SRW F350 on lots across the country that they have to give away at the end of the year before the next batch of duplicates show up. Even worse when looking at Chevy/GMC with 2 name brands of each weight. They finally figured it out with Pontiac, Buick, Chevy, Oldsmobile, Saturn, GMC carrying the same minivan or SUV and what was that costing them, a few billion? I know we're all set in our ways but at the end of the day, if the truck can be sold for a lot less because of all this money they're wasting on marketing multiple versions of the same thing and clearance sales, would you trade your bow tie for a GMC logo or vice versa?
Right idea, you just didn't go far enough with it. It's not just dropping the bow-tie badge in favor of the proud red GMC logo, let's drop ALL trucks that aren't GMC. Drop all Fords, Rams, 'yotas and Nissans. Service becomes easier, parts availability improves, hauling ratings are simplified, problems are extremely reduced, mindless brand loyalty is finally solved, and everyone becomes very happy. And before you call me a hypocrite for choosing GMC then knocking mindless brand-loyalty, know that not only are cars my whole world, and most of my past career, not only have I worked all 3 brands of real pickups, but I do in fact have a genius-level IQ. So GM it is. Not perfect, but the closest available.
'06 GMC C2500HD RCLB gasser 4.10:1, 4L80E, custom camshaft
'84 Trans Am 6.2 diesel, 700R-4, custom Class-3 receiver
'69 F350 dually. GM 6.2 diesel, turbo, 700R-4, NP208 all pending.
I know this is on a older generation truck but when I was looking for a late 90's chevy with a 454 to buy, I looked at 3/4 tons and 1 tons. I ended up buying a 1 ton 98 K3500 reg cab long bed SRW with a 9200 GVWR. The truck I looked at right before it was a 3/4 ton 2000 K2500 reg cab long bed SRW in the same body style as the 98 also with a 454 with an 8600 GVWR. I could not tell any difference in any of the drivetrain components other than the 2500 had the push button transfer case and the 3500 I bought had the Borg Warner floor mounted lever.
The engine, tranny, rearend, number of leafs in the rear springs were all the same between both trucks. I don't know about the front torsion bars. The frames of both trucks looked to be the same width and height. I really couldn't tell you where the 600 GVWR difference between the two trucks were.
I really don't see the need for a 3/4 ton truck if the 1 ton specs are not that much difference when comparing similiar setups. I think it is mostly about marketing and giving people more choices than anything else.