DETROIT, Jan. 28 - Ashton Kutcher's got a CXT.
So does the Toronto Raptors forward Jalen Rose. Jay Leno and Nick Lachey, star of MTV's "Newlyweds," have each taken one for a test drive. And West Coast Customs, the body shop from MTV's "Pimp My Ride," is already calling itself the "official customizer" of the CXT.
So what is it? The International CXT, short for commercial extreme truck, is a giant new pickup that makes the Hummer look like a Honda Civic. While many celebrities - the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Larry David - have made the fuel-efficient Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid car a Hollywood accessory, the CXT and a forthcoming family of gargantuan pickups from International Truck and Engine in Warrenville, Ill., promise to carve out a niche at the opposite end of the environmental sobriety spectrum.
At just over nine feet high, the 7300 CXT, which went on sale in September, weighs about seven tons unloaded, more than twice the weight of the Hummer H2 and equivalent to about five MINI Coopers. The CXT can tow a 20-ton boat and carry another six tons of cargo in the truck bed. Because it rides at the height of an 18-wheeler, drivers will spend most of their time looking at the tops of cars.
The price starts at about $90,000, but fully equipped - with, as Maxim magazine recently put it, "more leather than Mick Jagger's closet"- it can cost as much as $120,000. Options include an automatically tiltable truck bed, DVD and satellite-radio players and walnut trim. The trucks are sold at International's several hundred dealerships nationwide.
But the CXT is only the beginning. Because of the truck's initial success, International plans to introduce two more Godzilla-size models next month at the Chicago Auto Show to fill out a new "family of extreme trucks," said Rob Swim, the company's director of vehicle marketing.
International, whose parent company is Navistar and which makes commercial trucks and diesel engines, has not sold vehicles to ordinary consumers - even rich ones - for a couple of decades, and sees the new trucks as a chance to raise its profile. The CXT has already been written up in magazines like People, an unusual spotlight for International. The company is also discussing merchandising possibilities, including Matchbox versions of the CXT, as well as clothing and accessories.
"It serves a need for our customers and it makes a bold statement about our company," Mr. Swim said. "People are talking about our CXT. It opens some doors for us."
Nick Matich, vice president and general manager of International's "severe service" (most rugged) truck group, said the company "initially thought we'd be lucky to get 40 orders, and my estimate for 2005 was 150."
"Through January," he added, "we're in excess of 200 orders already, so the response has been a little surprising."
The company has upped its sales goal to 500 CXT's this year and has the capacity at its plant in Garland, Tex., to produce 1,000. The truck rolls off an assembly line alongside cement mixers and dump trucks.
West Coast Customs is already at work on its first CXT, and is considering outfitting it with a mini-fridge and giant wheel rims. "If you're going to have a big truck like that, you'll want to impress," said Tito Arteaga, who directs marketing and public relations at West Coast Customs. "It's just another big toy for folks who are looking for that."
International's extreme trucks are only the latest, and largest, crop of increasingly luxurious, fuel-swilling big pickup trucks. General Motors sells a pickup truck version of its Cadillac Escalade, and the Ford Motor Company's F-Series trucks have upscale versions featuring stitched leather on heated seats.
Consumer safety advocates have no love for the trend, because large pickup trucks can cause considerable damage to passenger cars and their own rollover risk makes them less safe for their own occupants than large cars, according to recent studies by federal regulators.
And the CXT certainly gets no seal of approval from environmentalists at a time when one of the world's largest oil producers is occupied by the United States, whose appetite for oil shows no signs of abating.
"Shame on International for making this thing," said Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming and energy program. "This is a monster truck that only a Hummer could love, and it shows that without government leadership, the auto industry will lead us to more irresponsible, gas-guzzling vehicles."
Fuel mileage of the CXT? From 7 to 10 miles to the gallon, despite its diesel engine, which uses less fuel than a regular gas engine. International is not required to report a specific mileage figure because under the United States' fuel economy regulations, the heaviest sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks are exempt from mileage requirements, although they are still subject to emissions rules.
Mr. Matich said the truck could do the work of three smaller trucks for those who plan to use it for business. As for Mr. Kutcher, there have been no reports that he and Demi Moore plan to start a construction business.
At the Chicago Auto Show, International will also introduce a somewhat smaller truck that rides lower to the ground. The RXT - recreational extreme truck - will have a starting price in the $70,000 range.
"It's still a big pickup when you set it up next to the F-350 Ford, but it looks like the CXT's little brother," Mr. Swim said, referring to one of Ford's largest pickup trucks.
International will also show a prototype for another smaller truck, the MXT, that it will sell in 2006. The audience is something we refer to as prosumers," Mr. Swim explained. "Prosumers are entrepreneurs, business owners, professionals. They want a vehicle that makes a statement." He added that celebrities "are entrepreneurs, too."
The CXT does not require the special operator's license for vehicles that weigh 26,000 pounds or more when fully loaded, because it weighs 25,999 pounds when filled to capacity. In some states, however, you have to take a test to operate a vehicle with air brakes, a type on large trucks that causes them to stop more sharply and takes some getting used to.
"Because it is so big and makes such a bold statement, I believe that's part of the attraction for the Hollywood types and sports celebrities," Mr. Matich said. "The truck brings out the kid in you."