Today's trucks have cubbyholes for just about everything

For pickup owners who already can't remember where they stashed the spare house key in their cab, the next generation of trucks is only going to make life harder.

Automakers are cramming more storage crevices, nooks, bins, pockets and hidden boxes into pickup cabs and beds.

Engineers who crafted the 2009 Dodge Ram say they've put 42 cubbyholes of various sizes in the cab — about 50% more than the current model. Ford counts 30 storage spots in its 2009 Ford F-150.

Ram and F-150, both due in showrooms later this year, have dual glove compartments, as well as multiple crannies in the dashboard and floor console.

Some voids won't hold much more than lip balm or a cellphone. Others, a six-pack — in ice.

In different trucks, storage features also show up under the floor, in the sides of the bed, even on the underside of the lid for the center console.

The goal: Create usable stowage "anywhere there is dead air," says Chrysler Vice President Scott Kunselman.

The storage trend has evolved. First came automakers jostling to see which could add the most cup holders in their minivans. Then, the Pontiac Aztek appeared. It did not win raves for its looks, to say the least. Nonetheless, it had appealing and innovative interior storage features, including a removable drink tray in the console.

Auto executives say motivation to add cubbies came from observing how hard-core pickup owners, such as construction workers, use their trucks.

"Contractors are always asking for extra storage," says Ford Motor fvehicle engineer Dennis Slevin.

So are moms. "For a lot (of buyers), this is the family vehicle," Kunselman says. A pickup can be "Mom's office."

Organization a challenge

But all those spaces also provide ample opportunity for losing track of things. Dry-cleaning receipts, extra shoelaces or a leftover ham sandwich all could take up long-term residence.

"People have a tendency that if there is empty space, they are going to fill it," says personal organizer Julie Hibbs of Squared Away Organization Solutions in Houston.

When it comes to pigeonhole proliferation, Hibbs says, "If you are an organized person, it's probably a great idea. But if you have someone who is already a little messy or a pack rat, it could create havoc."

That's why a fairly organized Jim Tyler always insists that his three daughters clean out all they've stowed in his month-old silver 2008 F-250 Super Duty pickup.

"I'm pretty adamant about the kids cleaning out the back seat," says Tyler, a commercial builder in Signal Hill, Calif. "The little compartments on the backs of the seats, they love to (put) stuff in there."

When it comes to storage, Tyler has his own pet peeves. For one, he wishes the center console wasn't just a big space, but was compartmentalized.

"No place to put CDs," he says. "You stack them inside, and they rattle around." And he misses a little cubby in his last truck where he stashed his wallet so he didn't have to sit on it while driving.

For guys such as Tyler, here are inventive places for squirreling away in new flagship pickups:

•Center console. It may be wide-open space, but the new F-150 lockable console box will be big enough to store two laptop computers, says Ford spokeswoman Afaf Farah.

Toyota Tundra's console bin has a rack for hanging file folders and space to tuck business cards or tissues underneath the lid.

•Double glove compartments. The new Ram claims the biggest combined upper and lower glove compartment volume, with 426 cubic inches.

Toyota product specialist Jef McClure says Tundra's upper "glove" compartment was designed to hold a full-size Thermos bottle.

•Under the floor. Ram has compartments under the floor mats on either side of the back seat. Each can hold 10 beverage cans, plus ice. The idea was carried over from Chrysler's minivans.

Designers "got to be experts in finding places for lots of cubby holes to store things," says spokesman Dan Bodene.

•Under the rear seat. The F-150 crew cab gets its first flip-up rear seat with storage underneath. The cab, stretched 6 inches over the current version, was given a flat floor, and Ford boasts that the storage space behind the front seats now is big enough hold a 50-inch wide-screen-TV box.

•Sides of the bed. Chevrolet's Avalanche has lockable storage built into the sides of the cargo box.

"It's good for emergency equipment or small tools," says spokesman Terry Rhadigan.

Dodge has a more elaborate RamBox, a lockable pair of side boxes that fit over the wheel humps in the bed to carry everything from a chain saw (yes, it fits) to a daily limit of trout (it's a good thing it has a drain plug so it can be hosed out).

Next: Cubby accessories

Not to be outdone, at the Chicago Auto Show last week, Ford showed off some add-ons to fit into the cubbies in F-Series trucks. One is an in-dash computer that fits into a center lower dash space. Another is a retractable, 8-foot cable lock that can secure items in the truck bed.

Some truck owners have so many bins, they don't know what to do.

"I have open space left over. There is actually more than I need," says Scott Wright, 21, a college student in Torrance, Calif., who owns a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab.

But he loves all the extra space for water bottles, gum, CDs, his iPod case and change.

"Right now," adds the criminal justice major, "it's pretty organized."