The Truth About Cars » compact pickups The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 02 Jul 2014 14:00:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » compact pickups Dodge Dakota Production Ends Next Week, As Small Pickups Show Few Signs Of Recovery Sun, 21 Aug 2011 19:29:07 +0000

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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Ranger Regrets Thu, 14 Oct 2010 17:31:33 +0000

OK, we get it. Ford’s all-new global Ranger is “90 percent of an F-150″ and it would make as much sense to sell it here as it would for Toyota to sell the Hilux alongside Tacomas and Tundras. We may not completely buy the argument that Fiesta, Focus and F-150 make for an adequate replacement to a true compact pickup in the US, but having starved that segment for so long, it’s understandable that Ford would now leave it to die. After all, nobody’s offered a truly new compact pickup for so long, it’s almost impossible to say whether the consumers or manufacturers killed off the once-burgeoning segment of efficient, utilitarian trucks.

With Mahindra struggling to offer its diesel pickups to American dealers, we aren’t holding out much hope of anything compact pickup-related changing anytime soon. Sure, there are whispers of a GM compact pickup in development (and some promising talk from Nissan), but that’s strictly in “wild ass rumor” territory. Meanwhile, VW is trying to apeal to more American consumers, doesn’t have a full-size truck lineup to cannibalize, and yet refuses to send its Amarok stateside. If any of the automakers is going to take a risk on compact (preferably diesel) pickups, Volkswagen seems like the one to do it. Alternatively, Mazda has its own version of the new Ranger and no full-sizers to cannibalize. Someone step up here!

The All-New Ford Ranger The All-New Ford Ranger The All-New Ford Ranger mazdabt50 The All-New Ford Ranger The All-New Ford Ranger The All-New Ford Ranger Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 69
May Sales Analysis: Compact/Medium Pickups Fri, 04 Jun 2010 20:30:24 +0000

We may love compact pickups here at TTAC, but apparently we’re in the minority. On the other hand, if the segment had some fresh blood, this graph might look a bit different…

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Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: GM Re-Committing To Compact Pickup Market? Thu, 27 May 2010 00:42:55 +0000

If you’ve been reading TTAC regularly, you might have noticed that many of us have something of a soft spot for compact pickup trucks. And what started for me as an innate affinity for all forms of cheap, honest, rugged transportation has become full-blown affection on the strength of several months driving a ’92 Toyota with four-cylinders, four-wheel-drive and a manual transmission. Of course, all auto writers struggle with the disconnect between their personal taste and that of the buying public, and cheap full-sized trucks seem to have eliminated all chances of a re-investment in the segment. Ford, for one, has said that it plans on “replacing” its aged Ranger (which dies next year) with Ecoboost-powered F150 options and its Focus hatchback. Dodge, or Ram, or whoever builds the trucks in Auburn Hills is said to be considering an unibody Dakota replacement, but hasn’t made a peep about it in months. Meanwhile, GM is shutting down Canyon/Colorado production at its Shreveport plant by 2012, ending its half-hearted competition in the segment. But, according to (which is usually one of the best at breaking these kinds of stories), GM is considering a new entry into the otherwise neglected segment.

This is one of those “anonymous sources” deals, and the details are still very fuzzy, but the gist is that

GM is said to be working on a new compact runabout that’s reminiscent of the original Chevrolet S-10, according to our sources… The key elements of success for GM’s future small truck would be fuel economy that’s greater than its full-size pickups and a window sticker that’s significantly less. It would also be a completely different and smaller platform than the planned next-generation overseas version of the Colorado that will be built in Thailand.

According to the report, the fact that other automakers are neglecting the segment, and the recent growth in the size of the Toyota Tacoma have “opened the door” for a possible neo-S-10. Color us intrigued.

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Ford Replacing Ranger With F-150, Focus, Fiesta Wed, 20 Jan 2010 22:15:16 +0000 Quit your whining and go buy a Fiesta, you girl.

Ford’s facing one of the toughest challenges in automotive product planning: how to offer the competitive compact pickup consumers say they want without cannibalizing far more profitable full-sized trucks. The solution? Don’t offer a competitive compact pickup. “It’s no secret we have a new Ranger coming globally. We’re working on one for all the other markets in the world,” Ford’s Derrick Kuzak tells “The difference is that all of those other markets only have a Ranger. They don’t have an F-150 above it.” See how that works? But don’t worry, Ranger fans. Ford has your effete, pathetic backs…

Today, a lot of customers who buy Rangers are the people who use it as a commuter vehicle. But with the new Ford Fiesta and Focus coming into the lineup, those kinds of customers will have other alternatives to the Ranger… The vast majority of Ranger buyers are not using the full capability of the truck.

See, why would anyone who actually uses a pickup buy a compact like the Ranger? You know, other than the fact that Ford hasn’t updated the wee hauler since the late Mesozioc and recently killed a mid-sized F-100 pickup. Actually, don’t answer that. Either buy a Fiesta, or pony up for an Ecoboost V6 F-150 (coming soon) or a four-cylinder Ecoboost F-150 (maybe coming eventually). Meanwhile, don’t mention a word of this to Howie Long.

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Truck Thursday: Nissan Developing New Titan, Going “Back To The Basics” With Compact Pickups Thu, 14 Jan 2010 18:48:57 +0000 Back to the basics (

About a year ago, Nissan’s response to nose-diving truck sales betrayed some serious ambivalence about chasing the profitable-yet-dangerous segment. Its first plan was to rebadge the new Ram, but that deal has fallen apart in the wake of Chrysler’s shotgun wedding to Fiat. At a loss for options, Nissan canceled the Quest, QX56 and Armada and started tooling up its Canton plant to produce commercial vehicles. It looked like Nissan’s days in the truck market were over. Now, USA Today reports that Nissan is developing a new full-sized pickup (and SUV) after all. By itself. Who’d have thunk it?

Why is Nissan getting back into a full-sized truck segment that it couldn’t even milk 20k units out of last year? Other than sheer desire to be a full-line manufacturer, there aren’t a lot of good rationalizations. On the compact pickup front, however, Nissan seems to have a better idea of what it wants and how it will get it. spoke to Nissan product planning VP Larry Dominique about Nissan’s compact pickup goals, and got the following heartening quote for their trouble:

What we want to do with the compact truck market is go back to the basics of what it used to be. If you talk to the compact truck buyers, it’s not why they originally bought these things. They wanted a cheap, get-me-done truck and that doesn’t exist. If you go outside this country, we sell our old small trucks in high volumes because people want a cheap truck with a one-ton payload. We think if we can get that equation back in line — and that’s a big if – we think there’s clearly a market opportunity….

It wouldn’t be as small as our old Hardbody pickups. People like the space of the crew cab. But can the vehicle be three inches narrower than today? Can it shrink the second row by an inch and the front row by an inch and still satisfy customers? But I want to get better fuel economy and I want a lower price point. I don’t think we need 265 horsepower. The customer isn’t telling us they need all of that capacity. We need to work to define what we need to deliver to the customer.

With a brace of low-cost cars planned for the US and a utilitarian approach to compact pickups, Nissan is clearly trying to position itself as America’s recession brand. It’s not a strategy without its risks, especially with Chinese and Indian automakers set to invade over the next several years. Whether Nissan’s pre-emptive strike against the newcomers, offering low-cost products with a trusted brand name and less third-world stigma, pays off remains to be seen. But at least they’re planning on addressing one of America’s most neglected segments, the compact pickup, with a properly utilitarian attitude.

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VW To Bring Amarok Pickup To America If We Promise To Buy 100k Units Wed, 16 Dec 2009 20:12:39 +0000 Amarok you like a hurricane
The Argentinian-produced Volkswagen Amarok pickup might be coming to the US if VW thinks it can sell enough of them. VW of America’s Stephan Jacoby tells “we’d have to sell at least 100,000 Amarok pickups to make it feasible.” But don’t get too excited: the only compact pickup to sell in those numbers is the Toyota Tacoma, which sold 102,327 units year-to-date.

On the other hand, the compact pickup segment is woefully short on modern offerings, and the sales difference between the relatively modern Taco and its next-closest competitor, the aged Ford Ranger (51,097 units ytd) indicates that updated offerings could unlock serious sales potential in the segment. But VW has bigger fish to fry, what with it’s million-unit ambitions and US plant coming online. Jacoby hedges:

The compact pickup segment is declining. Consumers are going to big pickups, which is a very traditional conservative segment. A lot of our competitors have burned their fingers in it as late entries. Before we could bring [the Amarok] here we’d have to do a lot of homework. But we have other vehicles to bring into this market first. Once we do that, we can talk about the Amarok.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Mahindra MIA Edition Wed, 18 Nov 2009 22:14:01 +0000 Yes, but where are they actually?

Autoblog ran this picture purporting to show the locations of future dealers of Mahindra and Mahindra pickup trucks. This piqued our interest because we’ve been curious to see how the Indian firm’s plans to bring diesel-only compact pickups and SUVs to the US market would play out for some time. Over a year ago Mahindra said it would be delaying its US launch (originally planned for Spring 2009) until the fourth quarter of 2009 because, as Mr Mahindra himself put it “my family’s name is going onto this vehicle, and it’s not going to fail.” Well, here we are in the fourth quarter, and Mahindra is still calling the dots on the map “potential” outlets. They’ve also apparently pushed back the launch date again, to the first quarter of 2010. Automotive News [sub] reported way back when that Mahindra’s distributors (Global Vehicles USA) were asking for $200,000 in franchise fees. Maybe finding folks willing to pay that amount for the honor of selling diesel-only compact trucks and utes are hard to come by. Either way, it’s getting to be defecate-or-get-off-the-pot time.

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Ask the Best and Brightest: Whatever Happened to Compact Pickups Tue, 10 Nov 2009 01:03:20 +0000 One of the originals (

Ford’s announcement today that the new global Ranger won’t be coming to the US sure seems like a head-scratcher. Though Automotive News [sub] quotes Ford’s Alan Mulally as saying the Ford Ka won’t be sold stateside because “our view is that Fiesta is about the smallest vehicle that we think will be a real success in the United States,” there’s no similar reason given for the absence of a modern compact pickup from Ford’s lineup. Or anyone else’s lineup, for that matter. The Canyon/Colorado are going out of production since the Shreveport, LA, plant is part of Old GM liquidation Corp. The Dodge, er, make that Ram Dakota will die next year according to the new plans at Chrysler. The Tacoma is no longer properly compact, and Volkswagen’s Brazilian “Robust” won’t be coming here either. Hell, even the latter-day El Camino was stillborn. But if my flu-addled memory serves me correctly, didn’t compact pickups help pull the US market out of one of its last great downturns? Why is it that nobody is giving this segment the time of day?

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