By on January 14, 2010

Are we embarassed yet? (‘s Mike Levine snapped this shot of Honda’s NAIAS booth, indicating that the Motor Company might not be quite as proud of its unibody truck as it once was. Ridgeline sold 16,464 units last year, less than half of its 2008 volume. Honda’s Alabama plant, where the Ridgeline is assembled alongside the Pilot, saw its output drop 35 percent in 2009. Having tried the unibody option that so many formerly truck-dependent firms now see as an alternative to body-on-frame offerings, it seems doubtful that Honda would recommend it to any of them. When it comes to the truck market, there are no easy answers.

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19 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Where The Wind Hits Heavy On The Ridgeline Edition...”

  • avatar

    When it comes to the truck market, there are no easy answers.
    Actually, no, there are easy answers:

    1. Build a better F-150 than Ford
    2. Keep building it for a decade or two
    3. Wait until buyers trust you enough
    4. Profit

    It’s actually quite simple a solution, but what it isn’t is fast.  You’re not going to win this market in a year.  It’s old, established and conservative.  Toyota’s only managed to crack the compact truck market by doggingly making the best small truck for twenty years; they’ll face the same with the Tundra.
    The Ridgeline was the latest answer to a question that nobody is asking.  Subaru (twice) answered the question, as did Ford (Ranchero) and GM (El Camino).   Again, it’s very simple: North Americans do not buy unibody trucks. Period. Full stop.
    I liked the Ridgeline and, were I looking for something that didn’t need to tow too much, drove like an Odyssey, but had an open bed, I’d get one.  But me and people like me are thin on the ground.

    • 0 avatar

      Defiantly the truth and nothing short of it. The Ridgeline is a nice truck don’t get me wrong but would I buy one? No. The unibody design is not one that people like and it doesn’t seem like people will like it anytime soon. Toyota after years and years has finnaly started to get the truck design a little right with the new Tundra but it wasn’t after much time and testing. Honda was way out of their league in the truck market with the Ridgline.

  • avatar

    Ok, as the owner of a Ridgeline, I felt compelled to post.  I like the truck.  I shopped Avalanche, and F150, but could not the deal I got at the Honda dealer.  I wish it it had better fuel economy, but if driven nicely will do about 18 mpg highway.  I really like the in bed trunk, and the fact that the spare is stored there, instead of underneath (I have seen a lot of people trying to get a dirty wet spare tire down from under the bed).  Quality has been good, though the rear brake pads (?) wore out at 20,000 miles.  No other issues though.  If the pads are it, I can live with changing them every 20K.  An easy DIY job.  I enjoy the ride quality and the interior has held up well, no rattles or worn switchgear paint, etc.  Diesel would be nice.  The AWD system has done with in the snow and ice of West MI, including my slippery driveway.  I know Honda spent years designing this truck, it is more for a suburban lifestyle than a work truck.  It does what I want it to, so I am a satisfied customer.  Being a little smaller than a Ram or F150, it is easier to park also.  I laugh when I see a Dakota, it looks like a Ridgeline now!!

  • avatar

    Some things Honda does.. there isnt much sense to it.

    I do know… that this (link included) looks better than the ridgeline..
    Ive had these pics on my home computer for years now.. and not quite sure what to do with them.. or how to catagorize them, knowing GEELY (now a part of VOLVO) always manage to BUTCHER the design, for once, it looks really REEALLY damn sharp.

    I also dont see any recent vehicles.. in the shots
    No Civics, Accords *gags* — Crosstour, no teases of European stuff, Civic 5dr hatch, S2000 in some crazy race scheme.

    Looks like they didnt even spend any time doing the layout for the NAIAS at all… what gives?!

  • avatar

    Honda’s real problem, in my opinion, is in the styling department. Though the Civic and Odyssey are passably bland, the rest of the Acura and Honda lineup are surprisingly ugly. s2000 aside, of course. What the hell did they do to the Pilot? CR-Z/Insight?! ugh.

  • avatar

    The Ridgeline is not a truck.  Neither is any other Honda vehicle.  No unibody vehicle
    can be a real truck.  No unibody 4wd is a real 4wd that can be taken off road, other
    than onto a smoothly graded gravel road.

    I nearly bought a Forester.  I bought an Xterra instead, and am glad I did.  It’s got a
    frame, and I’m not afraid to take it almost anywhere – well, I need some decent skid
    plates first, then I won’t be afreaid of where I take it.

    • 0 avatar

      > No unibody 4wd is a real 4wd that can be taken off road, other
      than onto a smoothly graded gravel road.
      I heartily disagree,  and a bunch of my fellow Jeep Cherokee owners would as well.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The profit 16,500 units throws off won’t pay the plant’s electricity bill.

    Hard to see a future for the Ridgeline. The pickup market is returning to its commercial roots.  Too big to be a door stop or paper weight, tradesmen don’t have much use for an expensive, fragile, odd looking trucklet that can’t plow, haul or tow.

    GM sold the same number of Chevrolet Avalanches. Wonder how much longer it will be around.

  • avatar

    The Ridgeline’s problems don’t lie in the fact that it’s a unibody vehicle. Consumers are willing to buy a truck-like vehicle that is actually a car underneath, as the crossover fad demonstrates. The Ridgeline suffers from its styling, as said previously, but also from its lack of benefits compared to traditional trucks. Why would truck-buyers purchase a Ridgeline that tows 5,000 pounds, hauls 1500 pounds in a short bed, lacks low-range gearing, and achieves 15/20 mileage with a 250hp V6 when they can purchase an F-150 that tows over 11,000 pounds, hauls 1400 pounds in a real-sized bed, has available low-range gearing, and achieves 14/20 with a 300hp V8? What are the benefits? Better ride and handling, but what do those matter to traditional truck buyers who are more interested (ostensibly) in capability and utility?

  • avatar

    Back when the Ridgeline was first released I read an article in some business publication about it.  They said it would never be a sales success, but the few sales it did get would put a dent (all-be-it small) in the sales of the F-150/Silverado/Ram. 

    Now I would never buy a Ridgeline, but everyone I know who has ever driven one or even considered one absolutely raves about them.  People who actually use a truck for what they were intended never would say anything good, but that’s not the market for this thing, is it?  Honda green lit this thing back when gasoline was $1.00/gallon and suburban people were buying F-150 Supercabs and treating them like the family station wagon.  For what 99% of truck owners inside major metro areas use their trucks for a Ridgeline is a better alternative over the Ford/GM body on frame options.   Just like a crossover is better than the old body on frame SUV’s.  An Accord with a light trailer makes most sense to me, but that’s not cool, ya know.   

    Now if we want to talk about Honda vehicles being hit with the ugly stick, that’s a different discussion. 

  • avatar

    I’m not surprise.  At my job, we call those things “Brokeback Pickups”.  Much to the discontent of the two guys who own them (one a retired Marine).

  • avatar

    People need to get off their high horse of what they think a “truck” needs to be.  80% of “truck” owners never use them for their maximum intended use.  It simply hauls a lightweight boat or some jet-skis and snowmobiles on small trailers, goes to home depot to get some lumber or shop vacs,  and maybe had to hop the curb to park in the grass at their kids soccer game…it then spends the rest of the time on the road, hauling nothing but a single occupant parent to / from work, school.  In fact, one of the most popular contractor replacement of their 1/2 ton real “trucks” have been used minivans!
    I’m not defending the Ridgeline b/c it falls short for what it should be (or could be)…low mpg light truck (with diesel it should be quite fuel efficient – but alas Honda has ignored diesels in search of its failed hybrid strategy).  The Ridgeline does what most “truck” owners need it to do…but nothing more.  It just doesn’t convey that macho image a real “truck” does which Honda could have styled it much better to overcome that stigma.

    • 0 avatar

      You are correct, it does 80% of what most people need, but the fuel economy isn’t good compared to the much larger vehicles.  For people who want a cheap truck to get the job done, it starts at about 5k more than a 150/Silverado.  Sure it probably has more base features, but that isn’t needed for most work trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to have the perception that Honda was the ‘king of fuel economy’ – they sure have dropped the ball on that one!

  • avatar

    I have a ridge too. It is one of the best vehicles I have ever owned. Mileage is about average for a awd pickup. Wish it was better and that it would tow a larger trailer, but what it does,  it does very well. And is a pleasure to drive. I think it is alot of truck for the price and is not cheap enough for many truck buyers/users.  If they could get better mileage it would be even better. Right now I don’t see any truck that I would replace it with. So I will keep driving it and pay the gas bill. It is a real sports truck and people that enjoy driving a safe handling, extremely reliable truck will really enjoy this vehicle. I hope Honda will keep it in their product line.

  • avatar

    Personally not a fan of styling, the rear looks too weird for me. I suppose that is aerodynamics at work behind the C-pillar…

    • 0 avatar

      The C-pillar section is likely a load bearing member, just like the stainless steel “sports bars” on a Subaru Baja.

      A few improvements could save the Ridgeline, but I doubt any will happen.

      1. Restyle it. The market for Buck Roger’s pickup is too small. A the very least, copy the Baja’s sports bars.

      2. Improve fuel economy. It can be done, so do it already. Toss in a diesel option, too.

      3. Add a two-speed transfer case option. It’d increase the utility of the truck.

      If Honda did all three and kept making small improvements over time, the Ridgeline could make it. If not, best to kill it now.

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