By on August 21, 2011

Few will be surprised to hear that Chrysler Group will end production of its Dakota compact pickup truck next Tuesday, as sales of all small-to-midsized pickups have cratered over the last decade. Indeed, the Detroit News reports that the end of Dakota production will result in the layoffs of only 39 employees, although that number may climb as high as 150. In any case, the end of Dakota production is just the tip of the iceberg: Ford’s Ranger goes out of production in December of this year, and GM’s Colorado/Canyon twins will be discontinued sometime next year. Though Dodge plans to bring a minivan-platform-based AWD “lifestyle pickup” to market as a 2014 model, and Chevy is planning to build a North American variant of its new Global Colorado for the 2015 model-year, we’re looking at a several-year interlude in which no American OEM will offer a small pickup in the US. And looking at this chart, you almost can’t blame them…

Well, almost. The reality though, is that the OEMs are as much to blame for the weakness in this segment as consumers. The market for small pickups was born in the oil-crisis and CAFE-wracked 1970s, when tiny, efficient Japanese pickups flooded the market and created a booming segment that had long been filled by old, cheap-but-thirsty used trucks. Compact pickups sold well into the late 1990s, when a strange new dynamic hit the market: with gas cheap and SUV and full-sized truck sales booming, sales of compact truck trucks began to slide. And, strangest of all, when manufacturers replaced aging pickups with larger new (or at least new-ish) models, the sales declines only picked up speed.

First up was the Ranger, which received its last real redesign in 1998. Though it was redesigned with only a slightly longer wheelbase and an extra three inches of cabin length, Ranger sales peaked in 1999 and crashed precipitously thereafter. Of course, Ford was selling jillions of Ranger-platofrmed Explorers at the time, so the Ranger’s decline was not seen as a huge problem.

Though sales of most, though not all, compact/mid pickups were already in decline by the mid-1990s, the 2004 and 2005 model-years marked the real turning point in the market. Colorado replaced the aging S-10, larger, wider, and heavier than the S-10, the Colorado was also offered with a V8, an option that seemed out-of-touch with the compact pickup market brief. Strangely, sales of the S-10 had started to flatten off before the introduction of the Colorado sent Chevy’s small pickup sales into an even steeper tailspin after a slight bump in the Colorado’s first full year of sales. Over at GMC, which never sold many compact pickups, the pattern repeated itself (please note: Chevy/GMC sales combine new and outgoing models during overlap years). If anything, the contrast was even more marked for Dodge, which moved Dakota to a more Ram-related platform for its 2005 redesign. Again, after a one-year pick-up in sales, Dakota sank like a rock.

Nissan’s Frontier and Toyota’s Tacoma are more complicated studies, especially because they grew even more than the domestic counterparts when they were redesigned in the middle of the last decade. Both grew into what we now call the “midsized pickup” class, becoming considerably larger, heavier and more powerful. For the first half of the 200′s, Nissan and Toyota enjoyed largely flat sales in a crashing segment, but after 2006 they took a beating along with the domestic competition. Toyota enjoyed strong years in ’05 and ’06, replacing the Ranger as the top-selling “compact/mid” pickup, but by 2007 the declines were already beginning. Nissan’s sales were already growing when the new Frontier hit, and although its decline was one of the smallest and its 2010 recovery was one of the strongest in the segment, it’s clear that its bigger-heavier-more-powerful redesign did nothing to broaden its appeal.

It’s not surprising that manufacturers grew their once-compact pickup offerings during the cheap gas era of the late 90s and 2000s. After all, what consumer buys an entry-level product and without wishing for a little more of everything? But as gas has gone up, offering the customer more has eliminated the compact pickup’s raison d’etre: affordable, efficient utility. And now, rather than addressing that need anew, the American OEMs are abandoning the entire segment as a stagnant losing game. Perhaps the loopholes pushed into new CAFE laws will justify that approach, and the compact pickup market as it once existed is gone for good. But if you look beyond America, it’s clear that most of the world still appreciates smaller, more-efficient and ruggedly-utilitarian transport. Perhaps at some point, a manufacturer that offers such vehicles abroad will bring them to the US, re-kindling the smothered embers of compact pickup demand. Given the way the market has been abandoned, such a gamble seems worth the risk.

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66 Comments on “Dodge Dakota Production Ends Next Week, As Small Pickups Show Few Signs Of Recovery...”


  • avatar
    obbop

    In 2004 while staring at various pick-up offerings part of my mind was considering…”What id I have to reside within THIS self-propelled mobile unit.”

    Looking at price, bed length, used parts prices (from past experience) availability of folks with experience in repairing the make, etc. and being in the upper-midwest where being removed from a major city could mean new AND used parts could be severely lacking and trained repair folks unavailable (leading to dismissing Toyota, etc.for that and other reasons) and what with dealers unwilling to “deal” with van prices and their, to me, too-high price the choice was narrowed down to Ford/Chevy.

    Mopar ignored for regional lack of outlets and generally higher priced for used parts.

    I wonder how many kindred spirits passed up Toyotas etc for their lack of lengthy beds?

    Late 70s Toyotas had long-beds that were very reliable and cheap-to-keep but later models were lacking in dwelling space.

    As an increasing number of the human herd huddle within mobile hovels expect to see increased demand for used vehicles offering maximum living space.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Attention! Attention please!

      Will Mr. Hyundai or Mr. Kia wish to introduce an updated version of a 1990 compact pick up for this soon-to-be abandoned market niche?

      By doing so, they will be introducing their companies to a new market that will help them add credibility to their lines. It will also allow them to become players in the larger pick up market when possible.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Would be interesting to see the 1970-80s replay itself: Datsun King Cab, Chevy LUV, Ford Courier, Toyota Hilux, Dodge Ram 50, etc. Small, light, spartan, cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Except for the small (but glaring) fact…nobody in America is interested in small, light, spartan or cheap pick-up trucks. Look at the sales volume of the F150 and Chevy/GM twins…

      Too bad…we had a 2003 Dakota Quad Cab, though base (it had window cranks…can you imagine???) my wife thoroughly loved her white truck.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        The Tacoma still does pretty well, so there must be people who prefer compact trucks to the full sized ones. I’ve always owned a full-sized one even when they had six-cylinder inline engines and a three speed manual on the steering column. Didn’t buy my first V8 automatic Silverado ’til 1988!

        I don’t think the Dakota will be missed. If anything I can see where a de-contented six-cylinder RAM 1500 will take its place and do better in sales than the Dakota ever could.

        That seems to work for Ford. Their 6-cylinder F150s are much in demand, and some of them like the ecoboost actually cost more than a V8 version.

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        Tacomas and to a lesser extent Frontiers are popular in western NH. The big trucks go to contractors and landscapers who plow. Anyone know where I could find a regional sales breakdown?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I have relatives who sell Tacoma at two locations in California, and they do pretty well. The most popular Tacoma they sell is the 4-door 4X4 in the SR5 trim. Turn around time is less than 5 days, depending on if the buyer can get financing other than TMC financing (not the cheapest by a long shot).

        You could contact NADA to see if they have that data, or maybe Edmunds or Autonation.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Can’t we pretty please get something like the Chevy Tornado pickup?

    http://www.tornado.mx/

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Yet these trucks seems to worth their weight in gold on the used market. Rangers – especially 4-dr SuperCabs – bring crazy prices wholesale AND retail while any S-10 or pre-’05 Dakota does likewise.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      One of my buddies was approached by someone he didn’t know who offered to buy his 1993 S-10 Tahoe ExtCab 4.3L for $6K, as is!

      He declined the offer because if he sold his S-10 he would have to buy a new truck to take its place and make payments for the next 5 years. Sometimes it’s just cheaper to keep’er.

      But the interesting thing is that he’s got so much money invested in that little truck to keep it running that he really can’t afford to get rid of it.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Well, perhaps because they’re not “small” anymore. People who own the older Tacomas, swear by them.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The dramatic failure of the Colorado/Canyon wasn’t because they were available with V8s. They weren’t available with V8s until 2009. They bombed on the market long before that. They were doomed because all-seeing, all-shafting GM saw fit to not offer a V6 or the acclaimed new I6 from the Trailblazer. To help GM’s CAFE scores, the Colorado was designed not to fit the new I6, and the I5 that was offered was a miserable substitute for the smoother, more powerful, and similarly fuel efficient 4.3 V6 used in the S10, let alone compared to the 4 liter V6s of the Japanese competition.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      My soon to be father-in-law has a Canyon. I4, auto, standar cab, no options other than an automatic transmission. Until I rode in and then drove that truck I didn’t understand those who complained about cheap feeling and sounding cars. That truck is the most cramped vehicle I have ever been in (with only one passenger in it). Leg room was hard to come by and I am 5’11″ tall. I ended up adopting a splayed leg driving position in that vehicle. Shuting a door sounds like droping a cymbals down a fight of stairs and has since the vehicle was brand new. Riding a high end ATV is less fatiugeing than driving that truck. It’s only good quality is that it was so cheap to buy that the old fellow doesn’t feel guilty about commuting in it and racking up 40,000+ miles in 2 years. When he get’s rid of it of it, the truck will be used up, so he doesn’t care about resale value (thank god.) If a Toyota Tacoma is 50% of what a Toyota is cracked up to be then he’d likely have bought one if he wasn’t going to drive the truck into the ground.

      Now guys, I’m not a domestic bashing troll, in fact I usually stick up for the domestics relatively speaking, and I’d really love a truck the size of the old S10 standard cab long bed ( a rare beast indeed.) I’ve only owned domestic vehicles but for Chevy, Ford, or Dodge to get my dollar for a small pick up truck the sucker would need to feel like a 1/2 size version of their oh so good full size offerings. The Canyon almost makes you feel like a looser everytime you get behind the wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        A friend of mine asked me for 4 cylinder pickup advice pre-bailout. He was going to look at the Ranger. I suggested looking at the Colorado, since he was interested in buying American and I figured the big 4 in the Chevy would be better up to the task of pumping a slushbox. The automatic was a requirement since he was going to use the pickup to save his BMW and his clutch foot gridlock duty. The dealers here, and there were many of them, had dozens and dozens of Colorados or Canyons. They were all either 4 cylinder, manual strippers that supposedly don’t exist, or they were 5 cylinder automatics loaded with trim. He went to look at them after trying the Ranger. On a whim, he stopped at a Toyota dealer and ended up buying a Tacoma V6 automatic ‘Prerunner’ that he still enjoys 3 years later. The Ranger and Colorado were undesirable enough that he thought maybe getting a little truck was a bad idea after all. The Tacoma was much nicer in every way. I suspect that is why they still sell in reasonable numbers late in their model cycle.

  • avatar
    cfclark

    I’m surprised this story didn’t include a reference to our favorite vaporware vehicle: Whither Mahindra?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    If for 5 cents you can upgrade to a medium drink, wouldn’t you? As long as it fits the cupholder, I guess, but when does it make sense to buy the smaller rig w/limited payload when the full size costs almost as much and delivers the same MPG? OK, if you own/manage a fleet of service trucks, you might go for the lower price point and ability to cram more trucks into the yard overnite. Problem is those regular cab ‘stripper’ Dakotas are loss-leaders and those that actually want the loaded Quadcab Laramie will get it in the Ram 1500, because they can.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    tiny, efficient Japanese pickups flooded the market and created a booming segment that had long been filled by old, cheap-but-thirsty used trucks.

    I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I would gather that during their heyday, a large proportion of these compact pickups were sold to drivers who wanted cheap transportation, more so than needed utility. To a buyer on a budget, the compact truck had a bit more panache than would an econobox that would have otherwise been the affordable alternative.

    Compact pickups sold well into the late 1990s, when a strange new dynamic hit the market: with gas cheap and SUV and full-sized truck sales booming, sales of compact truck trucks began to slide.

    It wasn’t that odd. The younger buyers got older, made a bit more money, had families and had become accustomed to trucks. For this demographic, buying a truck-like vehicle was an evolution in their buying habits.

    Since the seventies, there have been large number of buyers who prefer having light trucks to cars. (No, I am not one of them.) Trucks stopped being strictly utilitarian work horses a long time ago.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I think that the dirt-cheap S10/Ranger/Dakota “stripper” pretty much disappeared by the 00′s and was replaced by extended cab versions, jacked up to the sky (luxo-trucks), that in many cases stickered for more than moderately-equipped full-sizers. And these “mini” trucks with all the crap added on got crappy mileage as well, so whatever market segment that the trucks were initially meant for was essentially abandoned.

  • avatar
    340-4

    No surprise here.

    Full sized trucks can be had for as much or less than some of these, in particular the Dakota. A new Ram 1500 is cheaper and far better, and doesn’t it get better mpg’s?

    As far as safety, well, if Ford can make a Fiesta safe enough to sell in the states, couldn’t it release a new Ranger with the ecoboost that might get 30 on the highway?

    I suspect that if full size trucks weren’t so affordable, and gas was higher, perhaps the mfr’s would have put money into developing modern compact or midsized trucks to get the mpg’s.

    Still, I root for RAM, and whatever it is that they are working on. Rampage?

    Would much rather see smaller diesels in the bigger trucks to sneak closer to 28-30 on the highway. People seem to like the room and utility but come on, America. You don’t need these as daily grocery getters.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon after church and lunch is to go for a stroll through the local car dealers. I noticed today that the Ford dealer has all of one new Ranger sitting on the lot. It’s a 4×4 XLT, but not fully loaded, and the sticker was over $27k! And, to make matters worse, the mileage was no better than a 5.4 equipped F-150 4×4.

    Unfortunately that is why compact trucks have fallen out of favor…

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The loaded V6 Rangers don’t make a lot of sense unless a full size truck won’t fit in your garage or you just like the smaller form factor and are willing to pay for it. A 2wd 4 cylinder manual ranger gets 22/27 for mileage. If you opt for the automatic, which the vast majority of people do, it drops to 19/24. You can get a V6 F-150 that does 17/23 for not that much more money, and have a lot more comfort and capability. The compact and midsize trucks are dying off because the fullsize vehicle are offering more for near the same price without any major drawbacks.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @Nullo, a 3 mpg drop for the Ranger automatic? That’s HUGE. A quick look at the Ranger web page indicates it’s a five-speed, so how can it be so bad?

        While the compact truck market may never (?) be as big as the full-size one, looks like there would be room for someone to offer a compact truck with a small turbodiesel and DSG …

  • avatar
    mazder3

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If compact trucks had style manufacturers would sell every one that they could make. Right now there is absolutely no incentive for the casual buyer to go with a smaller pickup. With the exception of the Taco the rest of the fleet is outdated, inefficient, and cheap feeling. The Colorado was a step down from the cheap and not so cheerful S-10. The Ranger was past it’s sell by date in 2005 and the Dakota was watered down (urinated on) by Daimler. I’m really hoping that the Fiatized Dakota will be something worth buying. If not I’ll just stick with updated old trucks.

    • 0 avatar

      Style is extremely subjective. I’m a huge fan of compact trucks and (real) compact SUVs, and I’ve learned that my idea of a cool-looking compact truck is entirely at odds with everyone else’s. For example, I was recently looking at Autotrader to consider an older used compact truck (I can’t afford a newer one in the slightest) and was taken aback by photos of the Mazda B-Series. I honestly thought it was among the nicest looking compact trucks I’d ever seen, the body linework (which is slightly altered from the Ranger) reminded me of the Toyota Tacoma, but the front end was a bit smaller and less oversized, with what I saw as a tasteful, simple work-friendly style.

      Then I read Jonny Lieberman’s review, which said that it was a “pastiche of truck cliches that shouts ‘Cheap!’ like a 3900 pound canary” and saw the front end as “pig ugly.”

      Not to bash the TTAC writers (it was otherwise an entertaining review) but everyone’s styling taste is completely different, and I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass how cheap the interior of a truck felt if it were actually friggin’ cheap. I would buy a new Ranger if it had an MSRP of maybe $9000, because that’s what it feels like you’re sitting in, but I balk at paying, or even being suggested to pay, $19,000 for a two-wheel drive regular cab four cylinder Ranger.

      If that Mazda were new it wouldn’t look so good to me. The real reason I like it, more than anything else, is because I can get a solid excellent condition 2004, with maybe 50,000 miles, and pay $4600.

      If they brought over a Fiat Strada reg cab for $9K I’d seriously consider it. Hell, any reg cab compact truck sold new with a $9K price tag would have a ton of customers, especially teens (after all, you can barely buy a low-mileage used car for $9K, and the new truck would carry a real warranty).

      But no $19K compact truck, least of all today’s losers, has a chance in this market.

      P.S.: I personally think that’s why they don’t sell a compact truck in the first place: They can make more selling used vehicles for the same price and subcompact econoboxes for $17K. Selling a $9K truck is wasting a customer that an automaker could convince into paying $19K for an F-150.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        No new vehicle sells for $9K. I know Hyundai and Nissan have offered Accents and Versas for under $10,000 new in the past, but those are so stripped they don’t even have AC, which is a must have feature unless you live in the PNW or AK.

        You can get a stripped down 4 cylinder ranger with a manual trans for under $15K after rebates, and that comes with AC, front and side airbags, traction control, etc.

      • 0 avatar

        Nullo, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say.

        A compact truck won’t work unless it’s so ridiculously low priced that it makes no business sense.

        A lot of guys say they’re getting Rangers for $11K, which is crazy (and probably not true except in extremely rare circumstances.)

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        @The Luigiian

        I don’t understand why small pickups have to have small prices. Make a truck that is smaller than the fullsizers but give it a quality interior, a unique eye-catching exterior, a fuel efficient modern engine and a liveable ride height. It does not need to tow 5000+ lbs or be able to plow snow. Market the wee out of it. It will sell. If dealers can get 17k for manual tranny Bajas with 60k miles on the odo….

    • 0 avatar
      DPerkins

      +1.

      In addition, the Colorado and Dakota are rarely promoted, and very seldom in stock at the local dealer.

      Old product, no promotion, no inventory, huge discounts on larger alternatives = lousy sales.

      I still await a modern version of my 1994 S-10 SS.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    In ’05 I was all set to buy a new Dakota…I just kept staring at the ugly thing, and realized I couldn’t stand to look at it for 2/3/4 + years.

  • avatar
    Ion

    Now granted that the Ranger didn’t receive much of a redesign in 98, but the fact that it’s sales take a dive just 1 year later puts to rest all “the if they just updated it it would sell well” naysayers.

    In fact this chart as a whole really proves that the compact pickup truck market is really dying.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Ford may have upgraded the front suspension in 98 – but Ford failed to follow up with a fuel efficient V6 drive train.

      Around these parts, the V6 stretched cab Ranger is more popular than a 4 cylinder single cab with private buyers.

      The Ranger still offered either a 3.0 Vulcan or 4.0 Cologne, both reliant on a cam in block, push rod actuated valve train until 07. Neither engine is as light a modern aluminum engine or as efficient.

      The 3.0 Vulcan produces about 150 HP and slightly more torque than the current Honda 2.4, double overhead cam, iVTEC, 4 cylinder used in a CRV.

      No 6 speed transmission was ever offered either. Hence, there was little chance that the Ranger with a small, double overhead cam, 3.0 V6 with VVT could deliver an honest 20 mpg city / 25 mpg highway, which would have put some distance in fuel economy and the larger F-150.

      Oh and did I mention that a refresh in the sheet metal would have been nice, seeing as the Tacoma had a complete refresh in 2005?

    • 0 avatar
      trk2

      “First up was the Ranger, which received its last real redesign in 1998. Though it was redesigned with only a slightly longer wheelbase and an extra three inches of cabin length, Ranger sales peaked in 1999 and crashed precipitously thereafter.”

      Those sentences gloss over some substantial changes but the details reinforce your point. The 1998 redesign said goodbye to the Twin I-Beam front suspension and recirculating ball steering and gave the Ranger a new frame, new wishbone suspension and new rack and pinion steering. New 4 and 6 cylinder engines(oldandslow – the pushrod 4.0 ended in 2000, replaced by the SOHC 4.0 in 2001), new automatic and manual transmission, and a sheet metal refresh would be added 2001. Despite rather substantive changes in 2001, sales continued to plummet.

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        The sixes were updated only somewhat. They both still used push rods via an in-block cam and two valves per cylinder. The 3.0 Vulcan may have been dropped after 07, when the fourth generation Taurus was discontinued.

        I still think a modern, smallish, Duratec V6 by 2001 and a 6 speed transmission by 2008 would have added sales – but by then with Escape cross over being included in the CAFE average as a small truck, Ford didn’t really need the Ranger in its line up.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        The pushrod 4.0 died after 2001. the SOHC is based loosely on the pushrod 4.0, but about the only parts that interchange, are the crank, rods and pistons, along with oil pump.

        A pity the OHV died, as it’s a pretty tough engine, I’ve got nearly 300k miles on my 95 Explorer, it’s far more robust over the cammer, but makes no power.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Seems like, at one point in time, compact pickups were a lot cheaper than full-size ones. But, eventually, the price difference kept getting closer. Coupled with little improvement or change, and fuel mileage not that much better, what the hell did they think was going to happen to the market? Driving a Ranger or Colorado is like stepping back in time by at least ten years. That’s not the case with an F150 or Silverado.

    It’s a shame because, with a modern design and lower price, compact pickups would still sell. The Tacoma is a good example (and Toyota hasn’t exactly been updating those that quickly, either). The primary reason for the existance of compacts is simply that they’re a whole lot easier to park and drive than the bigger trucks. Unless you really use that pickup bed a lot, a compact pickup does fine for most casual ‘weekend warrior’ types.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark_Miata

      Exactly right – when I was in the market for a compact pickup in the 1980s, they were among the cheapest vehicles on the market. Now, you can get a variety of small sedans for significantly less than a low-end small pickup, and a full size pickup is only a few dollars more. If you are looking for basic transportation, small trucks make little sense (at least new ones).

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I get the feeling that the dismal sales of compact pickup is a phenomenon of car manufacturer’s own making. For whatever reason, they’ve decided to make the full size offerings the “jack of all trades”.

    When you compare the prices between say a Ranger and F-150, they’re about the same in price but the full size model is where all the R&D and improvements have gone, it’s 10 times the vehicle. It’s similar to when I went to a Ford dealer about a decade ago to buy an Escort, instead I bought a loaded, larger Ford Contour because it was actually cheaper (they must have had trouble moving them) It made no sense to go for the more spartan car (especially when gas was $1.00 a gallon) when a MUCH better Contour could be had for the same outlay. The extra few miles a gallon and more compact dimensions were just not a good enough reason to go with the Escort.

    If compact pickups were the bargains they once were, I think you would see a healthy market for them. I remember vividly you could easily get new S-10s and Rangers for well under $12k (I saw many ads for under $10k a decade ago)

    A Hyundai or Kia could step in with an “El Camino/Ranchero” type offering for under $12k, and I bet the Big 3 would be scrambling to reintroduce affordable compact pickups instead of just pushing buyers into their full size trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      I doubt that you’ll see compact trucks, which aren’t as compact as they used to be, come down to an econbox car level.

      The one issue with the Camino/Ranchero concept is that they would be based on a FWD car platform. I already have a front wheel drive CUV and in my opinion its suspension is just not robust enough for extended use on unpaved roads. With rear wheel drive and body on frame, its easier to modify the suspension to at least be able to use 30″ tires, some folks due 32″.

  • avatar

    I went to Enterprise last month looking for a small truck to rent, what I got was a 4×4 Dodge Dakota with V8 and four doors.
    Apparently this is someone’s idea of a small pickup.
    Funny thing is the Enterprise guy said all they get is whinging when the Dakota is all that’s available, everybody wants a big truck now.
    To be honest it was a pretty good truck, quiet, interior not too bad, but really thirsty.
    It does not fit my criteria of what a small truck is by any stretch and yet it’s still not big enough for the market, no wonder they’re being discontinued.
    Obviously the market has lost the plot on what constitutes a small truck these days.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Or the market has developed different needs, sensibilitiesor constraints, with the purchases either being defered (no money), moving to used (either compact or full-size, but only for weekend or occasional haulers), or over to cars (for mostly passenger hauling).

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I once recall one of the Ford Turck Engineering management referring to the Ranger as “the vehicle that helps Ford sell F-Series at a great profit”. My understanding was, at the time (1996), Ranger didn’t really earn anything.

    He was referring to the fact that Rangers helped reduce Ford’s truck CAFE rating, and thus avoided paying CAFE fines.

    Question is, what has changed? Has F-Series fuel economy finally caught-up with the truck CAFE requirement? Was it a change in the mix, more-Diesels, or smaller engines, maybe everybody moving down a size in SUV’s or over into more fuel-efficient cars?

    What relationship does the end of Ranger production (planned since about 2004-5) have to to do with the renegotiating the Ford-UAW contract?

    How much of Ford’s decision to (at least for now) not import the new T6-Ranger is due to sacrifice some compact vehicle sales in order to increase F-series plant utilization rates? How much is it a desire to see if customers buy F-series, or go to the competition, before deciding to import the T-6 Ranger?

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Robert, an interesting take on Ford-UAW negotiations.

      I always thought that Ford and GM small body on frame truck offerings were there to balance out the fleet CAFE truck averages.

      An interesting development during the past 10 years is that the CUV is classified as a small truck for CAFE purposes. Thus, a couple hundred thousand of those averaged into the CAFE figures, tends to lessen the reliance on a small body on frame truck, such as the Ranger.

      Another plus with regards to sales of the Escape and Edge is the ability to build engines and transmissions in the same plants that supply car components.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    If Ford had renewed the Ranger like they shoulda they would sell the heck out of them. Instead they drug their feet and paid no attention to them. The excuse that a F150 is almost the same price and gets almost the same gas mileage is a lame excuse. They don’t understand that there are those of us who DO NOT want a large truck, period! It’s all about the money and greed.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      Market based economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      If you are not an insignificant minority, then Ford is wrong, others will capture sales, and depending on the size of the segment, Ford may have to bring some product.

      If you are an insignificant minority, then Ford is doing the right thing.

      It is only a bit about greed, it is more about sustainability. If Ford built product for every insignificant minority, before long, Ford would be building about as many cars as Packard does.

      • 0 avatar
        Monty

        The “spartan, strippo small truck” is the same mythical beast as the “euro wagon with a diesel and stick” and unicorns and unobtanium.

        For all the gnashing of teeth about the small strippo truck, nobody buys them. When I was looking to replace my ’01 Sierra, thinking it was going to be a write-off after an accident, I tried to find (through Manheim) a strippo Ranger with a 4 banger and stick, and preferably with vinyl upholstery and no A/C. Guess what? They don’t exist. I found a total of a dozen amongst the thousands of Rangers that were available, and they had been fleet vehicles beaten to within an inch of their life.

        I am apparently one of twelve people in North America that would actually buy a truck with no A/C and a vinyl interior. Dealers don’t carry any more strippo models than the manufacturer forces them to do, because nobody buys them. Everybody wants the creature comforts that can be had by moving up to the next model, and usually end up leaving the dealer with far more vehicle than they intended to buy.

        Nobody buys strippo vehicles, and nobody buys Euro wagons with sticks (just ask SAAB).

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I just sold my F-150 and replaced it with a trailer. If I could buy a truly small truck from days gone by I would have considered it as a daily driver. But teh domestics are pretty much junk and the Japanese trucks are expensive and bloated.

    The Colorado trucks had lots of problems, as did the Ranger. The Dakota was no gem either. The market cratered mainly because of product, not lack of demand. I know someone that took a minivan apart and converted it to a cargo van because it gets better mileage than a real cargo van while being cheaper to insure and repair.

  • avatar
    ckb

    What about the chicken tax (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_tax)? Having zero competition must have made the big 3 lazy too right?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Chicken Tax only applies to imports, not transplants. And, if the Big-3 thought it was worth-while, they would get around this tax by importing box-less compact pickups from Thailand, install the boxes in the US.

  • avatar
    skor

    You wanna small, cheap, stylish, economical, easy to repair pickup? Here you go:

    http://photos-c.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs194.snc1/6540_127835405086_550750086_3035218_6191558_n.jpg

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I had a 2001 Nissan Frontier with 4 doors, 4×4 and v6. It got 19mpg and I liked the little truck. Then, the wife is yammering on about getting a bigger truck cause of the kids, so I traded for a Chevy Alvalanche, great deal – was a demo unit with 4K miles. I didn’t miss the 4×4 till the snow – but we don’t get much in NC and the bigger interior was nice, got 17-18 mpg. Then, it got wrecked and after a month in the shop, it still wasn’t “quite” right. Traded for a 2003 Dodge Ram, hemi, 4×4, quad cab. Great truck, but scared me trying to drive in the tight city streets, parking was a search for the one at the back of the lot you could pull through, and mgg was 13-14. I got rid of it and that was the last truck I’ve owned in 8 years. You know, I still miss that little Nissan!

  • avatar
    redav

    I used to own a c. ’89 Ranger, and I thoroughly liked it. My dad bought a c. ’00 Ranger, and it was worse in every way. That truck was so bad it nearly turned me off of Ford forever.

    If I find myself needing a truck in the future, I won’t buy a full-sized one. They are too big, too ungainly, and far exceed anything I need. Whoever is left (my guess is Toyota) when the others pull out will have pretty good sales numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Funny, I remember the same Ford Truck Engineering Manager, cited elsewhere on this page, also derrisively telling me how Ford put the Toyota T-100 through the Ford Truck Durability Cycle out at the Arizona Proving Ground, and very quickly the exhaust system fell-off … he was convinced that as far as Toyota trucks went, Ford had little to worry about…

      Would be interesting to hear your comparison between the original and the 2000 Ranger differences. Given all the expensive hardware upgrades Ford put into the UPN150, I never would have guessed that this would have been the case.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Since manufacturers don’t want to actually build small diesel pickups and it’s next to impossible to find a Rabbit truck in decent condition, this is my solution: A Golf TDI with VR6 suspension, a hitch and a Harbor Freight 4′ x 8′ utility trailer. I don’t have the trailer yet, but a trip to HF’s new store in New Hampshire will fix that!

    The useless manufacturers can eff off because I have no need or reason to buy something like a thirsty gas powered F-150 for occasional hauling.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    The problem with most compact trucks, is that you can’t fit standard building materials in them.

    Most can’t accomodate the width of the 4×8 sheet without perching said sheet on two precarious wheelwells. That won’t work for drywall. Further, most compact trucks can’t fit an ATV or snowmobile. Only some can fit a motorcycle. Really, a lawnmower or snowblower is about it. I haven’t seen many camper options either.

    Now, I agree these are good vehicles for the Costco crowd, but there are so many compromises…

    In true TTAPF/The Truth About Personal Finance fashion, I have to say the better choice is owning a used full size truck. Or a stripper new full size truck. Or renting a full size truck when you need one.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    The market isn’t gone, it’s simply evolved and compressed.

    Americans are still buying “smaller” pickups in (read: Tacomas and Frontiers), but since no OEMs make truly “small” pickups, its difficult to determine whether people would buy them, because they haven’t existed since the like of the Isuzu Pup and Mitsubishi Mighty Max went away.

    The new global Ranger and upcoming global Colorado are bigger and better than the aged American trucks they’d rhetorically replace. They’re pretty much Toyota Tacoma-sized, and may give the Yo a run for its money in the quality and refinement department.

    While it’s still unclear whether the US will get the bigger/better Colorado, Ford has definitely moved on with their EcoBoost V6 F-150. They’re conceding whatever remains of the “smaller” niche pickup market. Bascially, if you don’t want an F-150 or Transit Connect or Focus, Ford doesn’t want your business.

    That must make Toyota and Nissan happy.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Unfortunately, I’m one of those who are out of the sales loop because I don’t want to drive a big pickup truck. I like small cars, small trucks, and live on motorcycles. My ’03 Ranger Super Cab is the biggest vehicle I’ve got in the driveway, and the only thing I’ve ever owned that was larger was a ’96 Dakota longbed.

    Guess that Ranger is going to have to last me a long time. And when I buy another one, it’ll be a used ’10 or ’11 . . . . . and that’ll probably be my last pickup. Period. I DO NOT WANT AN F-150!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I think the next gen small pickups must offer good fuel economy above all else. Because if the difference is minimal, consumer will go for full-size instead. So the pikcups will probably have to be car-based. THough it certainly should offer enough capability so as not to be totally useless. Determine what most pickup buyers typically need to carry or tow (I bet that number is far less than a current full-sizer’s capability) and offer that and not much more. Probably end up pretty much the size of those early Toyota and Datsun pickups in term of size and ability. After all, did the world changed that much that buyers of small pickups a couple decades ago need that much more capability today? (they buy full-size today but the size and capabilities of a full-size pickups today is worlds away from the size and capability of the ‘original’ small pickups.) I guess that means the small pickups died long time ago, and all today’s ‘small’ pickups are more of medium-sized pickups, with too little difference between them and the full-sizers.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I think the fuel economy thing right now is holding back the small pickup market. Granted my Dakota is over 8 years old, but it gets the same mileage as a full size (13 city/19 hwy). Someone needs to offer a small diesel that blows these numbers away for a smaller truck to make sense. Most trucks I see are used for towing trailers, the beds are loaded with misc sized stuff that doesn’t necessarily require a full-size to haul. However the full size market is such a huge profit center that the automakers are in a full on war with features (leather, navigation, etc). Thus the full-size trucks get all the love, the compacts have been left to rot and it shows.

    One thing is for sure: I’m not getting rid of my Dakota anytime soon, it still the perfect size for me. At some point gas prices will force a shift to smaller trucks, so I’ll just wait for the rest of the US to finally figure out they don’t need an F350 4×4 to haul a bag of mulch.

    • 0 avatar
      ray

      Last September knowing that 2011 would be the last year
      for the Dakota I ordered a Dakota TRX 4, loaded with all
      options including the V8. I’m 66 yrs. old and have had
      Chrysler products all my life. This truck is by far the
      best vehicle I have ever owned. I have had people ask me
      what kind of truck is that? Many saying it’s the perfect size, and they didn’t know Dodge built such a truck.
      When is the last time you seen a TV ad for a Dakota?
      The Ranger’s to small the Ram’s to big the Dakota fits
      the bill.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Now that I have a utility trailer, my Frontier is the last pickup (of many) that I’ll own. A compact SUV with a hitch will do nicely.

  • avatar

    Very interesting Chart indeed. Buying a car is huge investment.. Anybody who think just cause a Foriegn car is made in the USA that it’s the same as buying American does not get it.

    I drove a late 80s s10 v6 for 5 years and then a 90s Ranger i4 for 10 years and now I’ve drive a 2010 Dodge Ram full size quad with a Hemi and MDS.

    It seems no mater what I drive I get around 15mpg because I like driving with the windows open, mounting wide tires and I just have a lead foot… so I might as well drive something with an engine that can tow.

    The Ram is a big, bueautiful, powerful truck. But dispite MDS, i only avg about 13mpg. But it’s 400hp! Honestly it’s really way too much truck for me in size and power, but really the best deal for the price and fuel economy difference… and that is the story of small trucks.

    Likley, the answer to the small truck is a midsize Unibody front wheel drive with an easy fold down Midgate that extends a small high bed that has a trunk under it. If they can make it at least look aggressive and it can tow 4000lb without bending and return 300+hp and 25mpg City real world for under 20k then your casual home use truck consumer won’t have to buy a full size truck. Period.

    I’m hoping to see something liket the 2001 K5 concept or of course the 2006 Dodge Rampage concept.

    But chances are what replaces the small trucks of today is a 150hp Prius with a napsack cut out the back that can only tow 2000lb for the price of a Ram, Silverado or F150.


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