By on June 16, 2007

betterdays.jpgOnce upon a time, a "brand" was something you burned into the hide of your horse. The mark told everyone "this one's mine." It also served as a kind of frontier Lo-Jack against the varmits what done rustled your horses. In those days, brands were just about impossible to change. Now as then, "brand loyalty" was the breeder's best chance of staying in business. Only applied to modern pickup trucks, the concept is fast going the way of the Conestoga wagon.

As recently as a decade ago, America's flatbed fraternity fell into three camps: "I'm a Chevy truck man" or "I'm a Ford truck man" or "I'm a Dodge guy." If I had a nickel for every rear window vinyl graphic I've seen of Calvin peeing on a rival brand's logo, I could play the Atlantic City slots for the rest of my life.  

When foreign trucks first hit our shores, truck guys dismissed them as "Tonka Toys." They were considered cute little rice burners for people who couldn't afford a "real truck." Just in case the base was tempted by the small is beautiful gestalt, Chevy and Ford fired back at their diminutive competition with the S-10 and Ranger, respectively. Initially, they weren't bad trucks t'all. Brand loyalty survived.

The Japanese automakers did what they do: adapt, survive, thrive. Each model year issued forth an evolution– and I don't mean the shape of the front grille. The Japanese rigorously applied the not-so-secret pickup truck formula: reliability, practicality, style. Engines got bigger. Payloads improved. Amenities became more amenable. In the process, they gradually removed most (if not all) of the reasons NOT to buy one of their pickups.

In Marketing-land, "influencers" and "alphas" are the people who determine how the wider populace perceives products and brands. A decade or so ago, a prospective pickup truck buyer turning to an automotive alpha for advice would get a lecture on why Ford, Chevy or Dodge made the best vee-hicle, bar none. Today even the most rabid pickup truck partisan understands that the flatbed buyer's choices are no longer so clear cut, or cut-and-dry.

Sure, you can still find pickup-driving guys hitting the honky tonks wearing tight jeans held up by Blue Oval belt buckles. But Japanese persistence has caused a decided and dramatic shift in the truck landscape; there's been a massive erosion in traditional brand loyalty.

These days, the difference between various brands' pickups is relatively minute. Whereas influencers used to sell their friends on a brand, they now talk about product. F-150, Silverado, Ram, Tundra, Titan, Ridgeline– which is the best pickup? Well, that depends…

Have a look at the streets of Amarillo, Laredo and Dallas. No question: them funny furriner pickups is showin' up in ever greater numbers.  Where every red light once stopped a sea of Rams, F-150s and 1500s, you'll now find a decidedly international mix of Tundras, Titans, and yes, Ridgelines waiting their turn.

Don't get me wrong: The Big 2.8 still make mighty fine pickups. Japanese products haven't "blown them out of the water"– as Japanese cars did to America's compact and mid-size sedans. But Toyota and Nissan's single-mindedness and high profile in other parts of the American automotive landscape, has paid off in a more subtle way. They've turned "Hell no!" into "What's the best truck I can get?"

To entice open-minded buyers and suggestible alphas to look beyond traditional brand loyalty, the Japanese are currently playing the inscrutability and "dare to be different" marketing cards. The Nissan Titan is… the Titan of trucks. Honda dares buyers to "Break the Truck Mold." And Toyota is the "Truck that's changing it all."

In a very real sense, Toyota's right. In today's more malleable market, The Big 2.8 have to distinguish themselves from the competition. And that means examining their pickups' core competencies, choosing one, developing it and refining their marketing focus to suit.   

At the moment, Ford claims its F-150 "Hauls more. Tows more. Built for more." Chevy touts the Silverado's Truck of the Year award and instructs the sheeple to "Follow the leader." Dodge proclaims the Ram the pickup buyer's longest-lasting option.

Although these tag lines suggest Detroit's drawing the battle lines, the domestics have a nasty habit of thinking short term. Their marketing departments tend to chase the trend of the moment, to react to fickle consumer fashions. This ADD limits the Big 2.8's ability to pick one unique selling point and stick with it.

Also, pickup trucks are like Swiss Army knives. Asking a domestic manufacturer to pick a blade and promote the Hell out of it is like asking a cowboy to ride a thoroughbred. Still, when you're in a race for your life, a workhorse isn't your best option– no matter how famous the brand it bears.      

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59 Comments on “Branded! How the Big Three Lost Pickup Truck Loyalty...”

  • avatar

    If I were Ford or GM I would push variety and choice as my brand attributes and continue to make sure to offer it. Evolve a Dell like build-to-order capability and push trucks Made Just For You. Of course your dealers would still stock common configurations, but for the person who wants a personal truck exactly the way they want it, build it! Give the buyer the option to pick up their new ride at the factory like you can a new Volvo through the European delivery option. Make the customers feel special if you want to build the brand back up. GM and Ford offer a huge number of options and variations of their trucks, yet finding exactly what you want can be almost impossible. Just try finding a basic work truck in a color other than white sometime to see what I mean.

    With most of the final assembly factories here in the US the main reason you can’t order a truck today and get exactly what you want in two weeks is a matter of long standing business habits. If Mr. Boeing wants to transform Ford he has a good place to start. Make Ford Trucks the Trucks That Are Built Ford Tough Just For You. We make ’em special one at a time because each of you are special and were born one at a time. This really could work and would be hard for the next guy to replicate. Toyota, Nissan and Honda would never be able to catch up.

    Every time the car companies run a sale it only applies to in stock inventory. Dumb and dumber. In the future, don’t run dollars off sales, but rather offer $1000 worth of the upgrades or options of your choice.

    Ford’s current advertising around load capacity only appeals to a fraction of their market. In a way if I only need to carry the occassional yard sale find Ford is saying that their trucks aren’t really for me.

    The chances that any company will do what I am suggesting are almost zero because they lack imagination and will.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Direct and indirect work truck life-cycle costs are paramount. A $100/hour technician without a truck cannot look after customers and is a bottom line killer. I look for a reliable durable vehicle, good parts availability and competent dealer service.

    I see several decade-old GMs on the road still plying their trade for every vintage Ford. I can’t remember the last time I saw an old Dodge. That tells me all I need to know about the domestic manufacturers’ wares. Toyota trucks will be worth a look when its teething problems are behind it.

  • avatar

    Where’s all the compact-sized trucks?

    Plenty of people need or want a truck, but not all need to haul freight trains around. High gas prices are killing the personal use truck market. Where’s the truck market answer to the Honda Fit?

    The Ford Ranger is a living fossil, the Canyon/Colorada are slightly too big in size and way too big in price (In Canada, the base Silverado is cheaper! What the hell?)

    The Jeep JT looks like it could be a winner, but I’m sure Chrysler will mess it up by either; (a)not puting into production or (b)overpricing it.

    The Japanese are surprisingly absent in this respect as well. After earning their rep selling Nissan Hardbodies and Toyota 4-banger trucks (many still soldering on) they seem just as focused on mid-sized mediocraty.

    Please Detroit! Give us a small, simple, affordable truck that would be “just enough” for Home Depot trips and rough road travelling. Something with vinyl floors, bare-bones interior, and an optional basic 4WD system. Keep it small enough so that a 4-banger or small turbodeisel would be enough power.

    I’d be one of the first to put a deposit down. I need a “yang” to counter my MX-5s “yin”.

  • avatar

    Ditto on the above comment. I neither need, nor want, a V-8 powered monster truck for my usual uses of weekly garbage hauling, motorcycle hauling, bicycle transport, and the inevitable monthly trips to Lowe’s. I don’t need four-wheel drive or off-road capability. Just real mid-20’s highway mileage, a decent level of interior comfort (no, leather is NOT necessary, nor are power windows, door locks, etc), a good automatic transmission (wife doesn’t do manual), and 150K reliability.

    My current ’96 S-10 does this wonderfully. Should I trade in the near future, a Ranger seems to be my only option.

    You know, this could be the foothold the Chinese; or Indians need to get into the US auto market. Forget cars (the competition is too unforgiving), first of off show up with a small, reliable, cheap, and not too crude pickup truck. Build your reputation from there.

  • avatar


    The big 3 do just what you suggest in offering MANY options compared to Toyota. Engine displacement, rear-end ratio, cab configuration and more. Go through the ‘build’ process on any of the websites, and you’ll see for yourself. Toyota has publicly commented on this aspect of one of the surprises they’ve had in getting into the ‘real’ truck market. I.E., truck buyers are used to getting what they want and Toyota was not prepared for this.

    As to getting what you want in two weeks, this might be practical and might not. There are many parts and suppliers involved of course, and given the complexities of just in time deliveries at the plants, this might not be practical. If you haven’t been through an assembly plant, it would be worth your while IMO.

    As for picking up your truck at the plant, I don’t think so. GM sold nearly 64k Silverados last month plus nearly 20k Sierras. This works for a Corvette, but not for a high volume product like the trucks.

    Finally, your statement that all sales apply to ‘stock only’ is just not factual. I just bought a TrailBlazer with my choice of 0% for 60 months or $4k off, and I ordered it just as I wanted it. The ‘trick’ is to find an incentive that lasts more than the 6 weeks or so it takes to get a vehicle built to spec.

  • avatar

    May I second the above comments of blunozer and sykerocker? Toyota lost me when the new Tacoma bowed in 05. It’s too damn big! Guess I’ll be keeping my 2003 Taco until the wheels fall off. Not everyone needs (or wants) a full size, or even mid size pickup. Bring back the Hi-Lux!

  • avatar

    Up until pickups were pickups (work tools)the “branding” made sense, when pickups started morphing into cars, the game started changing.

    When pickups were still a tool, most folks also had a car, you would not be seen in a pickup if you were not working. A crew cab was exactly that, a cab for a work crew, not the family. If you could not fit a 4×8 sheet of plywood in the box…is it a truck or a toy?

    Small pickups surfaced 30 years ago, they are not a recent novelty, does the customer base really want a small pickup?

    The early Blazers, Jimmy’s, Broncos, followed the same philosophy. If you need a 4×4 you are going through some rough terrain, the branches are going to destroy the paint first time out.

    Who remembers “free wheeling front hubs” on 4×4’s, you had to get out and lock the hubs before shifting the transfer case into 4 wheel drive.

    What makes more sense the individual in his F350 HD King Ranch with a power stroke diesel stuck in traffic and he’s on the cell phone. Or the other individual with a real work pickup, pulling a goose neck trailer with a tractor on it going to a job site.

  • avatar

    Admittedly, those of use who would love a small pickup are probably in the minority as pertains to the market – but I cannot believe that there’s so few of us that at least ONE manufacturer cannot make a viable profit catering to that market. Actually, two or three could probably make good money from it, assuming they wanted (read: found it profitable enough) to bother.

  • avatar

    It does seem ridiculous that the small pickup class has bloated itself out of its’ own market. I am certain that a business case could be made, as it hasn’t been that long ago that 100,000 Rangers were delivered in a year- with a 4 banger stick having a base of less than $10k. Particularly with gas $3. Plus, I am old enough to remember a program called Dealer Drive where you could watch your car get built and then drive it home, while saving the cost of freight. The program died in the 60’s for lack of interest. If there was a groundswell for it to return……….

  • avatar

    I had a roomate in college that was a marketing major and he stated something brilliant, original, and profound “If something don’t sell, paint it red and put a 1/2 naked babe next to it”. That about summed up marketing/branding at the time in the broadcast-centric media.

    Over the last 10 years or so, the Internet/Search engine (pull media) is replacing the broadcast TV, newspaper, magazine (push media) as the dominant information gathering machine where mind-numbing slogans, jingles, soundbites, and other hucksterisms (branding) cannot survive.

    2.801 (as well as most companies) have become product-centric over the last few years not by choice but thru survival pressure. The Marketing “skill-set” is becoming obsolete in the mind-expanding/huckster-exposing Internet world with websites like TTAC…Have you clicked on a TTAC ad today? (how’s that for sloganeering?)

  • avatar

    Small dicks and low gas prices still prevail in America when it comes to truck choices. People want big, cheap and manufacturers provide cheap and big… It is a matter of demand and perceived social status.
    Small trucks will reappear when gas price will be par with ROW (rest of the world except OPEC) AND Americans go over their cowboy-complex (note that it may never happened to boomers and genXers).

    In the meantime i will be driving my station wagon with a hitch (plenty enough for 2000lb tow to go to Loe’s).

  • avatar


    Note Gardiner Westbound’s post above based on reason and not branding…It is becoming the norm.

  • avatar

    I always had a GM truck of some kind since 1970 until I got out 2 years ago, so I pay no attention to details anymore.

    The one thing that really sticks out though, is the paint on the new Tundras.

    After a life of orange peel they look like diamonds when you see them on the street.

    The GM trucks always were unbelievably reliable from a powertrain point of view even though the assembly quality (squeaks, rattles, gaps, etc) sucked. Strangely the best ones by far always were the ones assembled in Mexico.
    Even the paint wasn’t so bad.

  • avatar

    Yes the US based companies offer a wide range of configurations and options, but they do not orient their entire effort around getting each customer the exact truck they want. Last year I helped a friend find and buy a Chevy 4×4 work truck. We had to drive 150 miles to get one in something other than white. He would have been happy to factory order, but was told that the price would be $3k higher if he didn’t take one from inventory. I understand that the 2.5 build a huge array of configurations, but none has built their advertising around the idea of getting you exactly what you want and need. None of them goes out of their way to make every customer feel like they are getting exactly what they want. Build it, shove it into inventory and push it off the lot into someone’s hands is the way the business works today. Not exactly customer-centric.

    After a life of orange peel they look like diamonds when you see them on the street.

    Recently I had a look at a brand new Corvette and I was shocked at the degree of orange peel in it’s paint. Hyundai puts nicer paint on the Azera than Chevy puts on it’s flagship. DUH!

  • avatar

    Where’s the truck market answer to the Honda Fit?

    I guess the closest thing is the Honda Pilot, but it is still oversized. Honda did go for an entirely different user and has built a loyal customer base for it’s odd truck while leveraging the same platform under the Odyssey, Pilot & MDX. Maybe they can spin a mini-truck off the RDX ????

  • avatar

    Toyota still makes their Tacoma small truck. Maybe not as small as it used to be, but roughly Ranger sized.

    The good news is that for once an American company -Ford- will be poised to take advantage of a changing market. If four banger basic small trucks make a comeback, Ford should do well. Toyota will as well.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I see several decade-old GMs on the road still plying their trade for every Ford. I can’t remember the last time I saw an old Dodge. That tells me what I need to know about the domestic manufacturers’ wares. Toyota trucks will be worth a look when it puts its teething problems behind it.

    Gardiner’s got it. More to the point, people want old GMs bad enough to pay hundreds/thousands more over a similar Ford. (Powerstroke excluded)

    And once a Dodge truck hits the decade mark, you barely see them anywhere.

    I still think that Ford/GM wouldn’t be in such bad shape if they built their cars with the same gusto as they do the F150/Silverado.

  • avatar

    I have to disagree. The current Tacoma is as big as the late, unlamented T 100 (probably the same chassis), Toyo’s original “full-size” pickup. It’s way bigger than a Ranger.

  • avatar

    I still think that Ford/GM wouldn’t be in such bad shape if they built their cars with the same gusto as they do the F150/Silverado.

    Ain’t that the truth. At the same time as Chevrolet was building some gawd-awful crap, they built my ’86 Silverado, which has its flaws, but is wonderfully overbuilt.

    In my area you still see countless 73-87 style Chevs and GMCs. Obviously more from 80-87 than 73-79, but many of these had the bullet-proof 350/TH400 combos, and the styling has aged remarkably well. They also rust out often with less speed than comparable F150s of similar vintage.

  • avatar

    Well, I’m holding on to my ’98 Nissan Frontier for as long as possible. It’s a regular cab, 2wd 4-cylinder, 5-speed manual with a cloth bench seat. A/C, power steering, a 30(!) watt stereo (2 speakers), and carpeting sum up the creature comforts.

    But it’s been darn near bulletproof over the almost 9 years I’ve owned it. It has only 59K miles, and it looks virtually brand new. My running average mpg since I started a spreadsheet in the spring of 2004 is 26. I don’t think there’s a new pickup today (other than a stick shift Ranger) that can outdo that.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Floyd is an African-American auto service techician – what used to be called just “a mechanic” – I know who looks like a middle-weight boxer. For years, he wouldn’t have been caught dead in a car that didn’t have at least 400 horsepower.

    Then one day, he traded in his Firebird TransAm for a Nissan 350Z. I don’t know if he was embarrassed, but the service manager at the shop told me that he didn’t announce his choice of car was what he used to call “a rice burner.” So for a week or so, the service manager and owner of where Floyd works, Daisywagen Foreign Car Service, wondered who owned the Z car, parked out on the street in front of the shop.

    But after a while, since Floyd has a boat, he considered a Nissan Titan; and finally traded in the Z car for a Nissan Armada – essentially a Titan with four doors and no pickup bed – because both the Titan and Armada can tow 9,000 pounds. He went with the Armada, since he and his wife sometimes want to bring friends along, when they go boating.

    These days, when I tell Floyd about either the GM Death Watch, Ford Death Watch or the Chrysler Suicide Watch at TTAC, invariably he will quote an article he just read in the Wall Street Journal on the travails of one of those auto companies. (In the week now ending, it was Floyd who told me of a WSJ article on Ford’s desperate move to sell off its PAG.) As with religion, converts are always the biggest believers. Floyd is now a believer in the quality of Japanese products, and the value, in a way I would have never believed possible two or three years ago.

    Now when the Big Three – I still call it that, because when I grew up, it was true – lose guys such as Floyd, the die is cast. If Toby Keith does a commercial for Nissan or Toyota, we’ll know the fix is in.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I really don’t get it with the Nissan trucks. Their compacts were comparable to the Toyota’s when it came to durability, but the rest of their line-up is just cheap crap.

    Looking at Nissan Armada’s, Titan’s, QX’s and FX’s is like looking at Infiniti’s back in the early 2000’s. There is so much cheap creaky plastic in these things that I really can’t see them leading the class until they current ones are shelved.

    Yes I’ve driven the Armada. It’s a good SUV for an absolutely huge person who needs a car that will fit him and tow a large boat with friends in tow. As a commuting device it’s ungainly. I would consider it to be the one SUV that feels as big as an H2 but without any of the styling plusses that come with that model. The plastics may have been revised. But when I drove one circa 2005 they reminded me of a mid-90’s Dodge Ram. Neit Geit! Not Good!

    The Titan has the muscles… but not the versatility or the quality. I would argue that the Silverado represents a far better offering at this point and the higher end F150’s offer an interior that is literally a light year ahead of the Titan. I’ve always seen the Titan as a direct competitor to the Ram. Both balance good numbers with cheap build quality and plasticized interior accomodations.

    Time will tell if Toyota’s 2 T’s will become All-American. I still see that potentiality a couple of generations down the road.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Honda is en route to selling fewer than 45,000 Ridgelines for 2007 and has a 21.9% drop over last year’s sales through May of this year. I suspect gas prices will continue to hurt this niche model.

    Nissan will sell fewer than 70,000 Titans if the trend continues and has a 14.9% drop so far over 2006. It constitutes less than 3.5% of the full-sized truck market at this point.

    Neither of these two models have been successful. The Ridgeline reminds me a lot of the Pacifica. Both models had very modest sales goals and yet, the aesthetic and pricing challenges for them proved to be insurmountable. Given the seasonal softening of the market during the final quarter I highly doubt Honda will sell even 40,000 Ridgelines. I doubt Honda will cancel it since the pickup truck market currently represents Honda’s weakest link. They can’t afford the bad press that would come from retreating in this market. It would have too broad an impact on their SUV line-up.

    Nissan wanted to move 100,000 Titan’s. They may find themselves in the low 60k range should Ford, GM, and Toyota engage in a serious price war later this year. With Toyota and Ford itching to improve their marketshare over the Silverado/Sierra I believe Nissan’s Titan will become a numerical footnote in these months to come.

    Nissan, Honda, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and arguably Subaru (Baja) have been largely unsuccessful. Even when more marketable derivatives for urban commuters have been offered (Baja, Ridgeline) it hasn’t worked out. Even when longer warranties were available for similar products (Isuzu, Mitsubishi) the American pickup buyer has shrugged their shoulders and walked away. There’s a reason for it.

    Detroit still makes some of the best full-sized trucks in the world. Although I wish that better diesel offerings were on tap (Isuzu???) the fact remains that the Big Three still largely dominate the market. Now if only GM had kept Isuzu and Daihatsu been allowed to stay in the states all those years ago, perhaps we would be experiencing a different discussion circa 2007.

  • avatar

    New GM Duramax Diesel….

  • avatar

    probably the trucks is the last escape for detroit. why? because an average truck buyer from a small rural town will be less demanding to such things as fit and finish or material texture, or hp per liter , or if there is vvt or independent rear chassis. they need simple , reliable (oooops) rigs. and they are bigger ptriots. why? because patriots are local americans, and in countryside live the biggest percentage of locals, while imigrants stay in big cities, very unlikely they would flee, let`s say to Hannover in NH or Fairlee in VT.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Aaahhh… I hate to break this to you. But patriotism doesn’t equate to buying ‘American’. Neither does ‘fit and finish or material texture, or hp per liter’ equate to buying Japanese.

    If you want to buy the best of something, you need to focus on the product. Not the nameplate or stereotypes that go along with it.

  • avatar

    I totalled my GMC Sierra in January, it was base with a V6. Nice, but not better than an F150 or Dodge Ram.
    I bought the base Tacoma 4 cyl, at, air, and I am getting 26 mpg highways. I am very pleased with this vehicle.
    I have looked at the new GM full size trucks, they are beautifully made. Nice paint and sheet metal fit. I expect Ford and Dodge to remain fully competitive with their new models when they are introduced.
    What we have is a very competitive market – good for consumers – where you will not be making a bad choice no matter what you buy. GM, Ford, Dodge, Toyota, Nissan, Honda – all are making good product.

  • avatar

    The luxury Lincoln and Caddy pickups really make me laugh. And slap a couple of Herley emblems on a F-150 and really make those Mericans quiver with envy.

  • avatar

    Ranger / Tacoma Both regular cab, 5spd.

    Eng. 2.3L 4cyl…../ 2.7L 4cyl

    Height 66.2″…../ 67.5″

    Width 69.3″…../72.2″

    Length 187.4″…../190.4″

    WB 111.5″…../109″

    Bed Lngth 72.7″…../73.5″

    MPG 24/29…… 23/28

  • avatar


    I feel if you can get a good price on a Ranger, it is still quite practical as a truck, even though it has not had an updgrade for some time. Have heard rumors Ford is going to discontinue it though.

  • avatar


    I agree. I’m still driving my ’98 Ranger 2wd. 4cyl/5spd. Very practical. Mileage isn’t great but not so bad that I want to replace it.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Add my name to the list of Ranger believers. Sure, it hasn’t been redesigned in quite a while. But, you know what? I don’t care. My 2003 Ranger XLT has the four-banger, manual transmission, 2WD, standard bed and standard cab. It has been a joy to own. Not a single mechanical problem in the 50K I’ve put on it so far. Up to 33mpg on the highway. Mid-20’s around town. I typically average about 27mpg in mixed driving. The XLT version of Ranger bench seat is quite comfortable. The radio is great. And I’ve never had a problem driving in poor weather – rain, snow or ice. No need to throw sandbags in the bed in the winter, because the four-cylinder version is so well-balanced. The OEM Continentals weren’t bad at all. I just replaced them with Bridgestones. The Ranger is an honest, simple, practical, resonably economical vehicle. The market for small pick-ups might be sluggish now. But Ford should keep making the Ranger. It’s only a matter of time before gasoline prices will make them popular again. My Ranger has proven to me over and over again that less really can be more.

  • avatar

    I live in the mid west and you will see Tundra’s, Titans, and Ridgelines in the city and suburbs. In the country side it is the opposite Ford, Chevy, and Dodge dominate the roadways.

    I will see an occasionally a New Tundra in the countryside mainly because they are assembled near me.
    No big surprise (maybe to Ford, GM, and Dodge) that Toyota picked Texas to assemble the new Tundra and Nissan chooseTennesse for the Titan.

    Around here the big 2.5 have not lost the pu market and it is the last scrate temple of theirs to keep and they will not loose it without a fight.

    Toyota should offer special financing to business to get their truck into the mainstream work truck segment which is important in changing minds of the core pu market.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Out in the boonies where my parents live, domestics rule for the simple reason that foreign manufacturers have zero market penetration. It’s getting a little better, but really, they have no choice but buy a domestic when the nearest foreign dealer is often more than an hour drive away. And with foreign truck reliability being what it is, at least as crappy as the domestics are, repair people are much closer to home.

    But then, when my dad’s F-150 dies, i’m sure he’ll replace it with something less truck-like. They’re still ooh-ing and aah-ing over the sick gas mileage their Focus gets. Need to haul something occasionally? Borrow someone else’s truck, or rent one. Unless you’re a construction worker, why bother?

  • avatar

    steven lang- first impression lasts, and material texture, fit and finish and overall design proportions( the only thing americans are strong at) ARE part of the first impression. and you mentioned that manufacturer needs to focus on the product. But as you know focus itself is the precision of picture sharpness. and material texture and fit and finish clearly represent the attitude quality or focus on the car. attention to details is the focus you mentioned. and hp per liter represent the focus on engine materials , precision and engineering meticulousness.
    And if patriotism is not supporting your own country, and also supporting her by buying her products, then what the heck is it? everyone knows that Philips is dutch company, so they came up with a more american name- norelco, or magnavox for that matter. why? it boosts sales, because a lot of local people would rather buy something that sounds american. american nation is starving for TANGIBLE ENGINEERED GOODS, that`s why importers come up with american sounding names to quench their appetites, milk their wallets and cheat their conscience.

  • avatar

    The Ranger’s a good truck as is. I’m afraid that “freshening up” would involve extra weight and bulk and a higher price tag.

    Ford is wise to just leave it be, perhaps some day offering the SportTrac’s all-plastic box as an option ( in full6′ and 7′ lengths), but otherwise minimally tinkering with it.

    If the ever-increasing hordes homicidally-negligent natives of a certain Third World pesthole don’t prematurely kill my 1997 Ranger, I fully expect another 10 years use from it.

    I wouldn’t mind it at all if my new 2017 Ranger turns out to be a “living fossil”.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Small trucks will reappear when gas price will be par with ROW

    The reason Europe specifically pays ridiculous prices for gas (or diesel) is strictly high taxes….otherwise their prices would be down near ours.

    I sold my ’88 Nissan SE-V6 King Cab in ’01 when I needed a daddy-mobile for the new offspring. Loved that truck – 225k+ reliable miles, decent economy, fun to drive, easy to park etc.

    The Ranger and base Tacoma are the only real choices today – I would love to see someone bring out a light-weight light-duty hybrid for those of us who need Home Depot trucks.

    What was that little truck based on the Rabbit called back in the early ’80’s?

  • avatar

    I have to say that the difference between the new Silverado and the new Tundra isn’t much. They are both massive improvements over the previous model(s). If I had to buy a truck (and I don’t, thank god) i think I’d still pick the F150. I don’t know why though. They all seem about the same these days.

  • avatar

    Another Ranger fan here, having had two back to back (’95 amd ’02). Oddly enough, the ’95 was designed and built better.
    Ford is slated to drop the Ranger after 2008, unfortunately.
    I also share the opinion that the current Toyota Tacoma is now a midsize, despite published numbers, as I’ve test driven/shopped/considered it.

    Locally (deep south), the new Toyota Tundra is a huge hit, see more new Tundras than 900GMT based GM’s or current model Dodges in the parking lot (blue collar machine shop) or around town.

  • avatar

    Dave M.:
    What was that little truck based on the Rabbit called back in the early ’80’s?

    In the US it was the Rabbit Pickup, in europe it was the Caddy.

    I call them Trabbits.

  • avatar

    jurisb “if patriotism is not supporting your own country, and also supporting her by buying her products, then what the heck is it?”

    Jurisb Lets put it this way. Most people where I live love their country and consider themselves patriotic. I live by Macdill Airforce Base Hone of the Central Command. You should see the cars going into the base driven by our military men and woman. The percentage is probably higher among that group for foriegn car ownership than the general population. Most people simply don’t equate the car purchase with patriotism.

    I support our country, I pay my taxes, i vote in every election. I give to charities etc. I use to do volunteer work for my union.

    Let me make this perfectly clear most people I know love their country which is the USA. We are patriotic. Many people I know have american flags on their cars which symbolize their love of country. (even on their Toyotas). We simply don’t equate GM as being synonymous with America. I lov America my country, quite frankly I am disgusted with GM. Their poor sbpar financial performance over the years has screwed thieir owners the shareholders. The lack of any accountability on the part of top magagement coupled with their complete lack of shared sacrifice has screwed their line workers and lower level management. They have routinely screwed their suppliers over putting many into the brink of bankruptcy. And finally they have screwed their customers over for years with subpar products which they have not backed up. So No I don’t feel any connection with my love of country with GM or Ford in any way.

    After all if it is unpatriotic to buy a foriegn car then why should I buy a GM, they are among the biggest importers of foriegn cars like the Aveo. Why isn’t GM regarded as unpatriotic if they bring in Aveos but if I buy a Scion I am unpatriotic?

  • avatar

    A small truck for most people would be a great thing. Most of the new “compact” trucks are not really that compact. Years ago I had a 1993 GMC S-15. It was an extra-cab 4×4 with the big 4.3L v-6. I would say that truck was the perfect size, the extra space behind the seats was great for putting stuff, since it rained a lot there (back in Alaska). The bed was plenty big for trips to the dump, hardware store, lumberyard. I wasn’t a Contractor so a full size truck would have been too big. The Colorado/Canyon is too big, too expensive, and not all that good looking anyway.

    I believe I saw a story on about a company from India – Mahindra & Mahindra that builds little trucks, they look a bit like the old Chevy Luv. This might be the new perfect truck for people who don’t need that much truck.

  • avatar

    Brad, can you substantiate the “massive erosion” of pickup loyalty you proclaim in this post? I did not see any evidence other than your observation that more brands of pickups are appearing on the streets. To be sure, Toyota, Nissan and Honda are making headway into the pickup segment. Success with profitable product invites competition. Is iPod also facing a “massive erosion” now that Sansa and Microsoft are getting better with their MP3 players?

  • avatar

    Ford is slated to drop the Ranger after 2008, unfortunately.

    I’ve heard that the Ranger is slated for a redesign and a new nomenclature: F-100.

    This, like many stories about the impending fate of the Ranger, falls within the realm of speculation and perhaps conjecture, and has a downside and an upside.

    The downside? Erasing decades of name equity.

    The upside? Adding to the “F-Series” sales totals.

  • avatar

    Oh, and by the way, Brad, conspicuous by its absence from your reference to the Domestic counterattack to the lil’ trucks from Japan is Dodge’s Mitsu-built D-50 and in-house built Dakota.

    Certainly post-1987 it could be argued the Dakota created a new niche in the now-fashionable mid-size pickup segment, which it occupied to itself, then quickly lost dominance of once TMC, Nissan and GM entered the segment.

  • avatar

    I think the premise of the article is incorrect.
    Especially in the full size pickup market. Domestics are hanging tough.

    Now if Mahindra could come in with a compact diesel PU, they would probably find a nice niche.
    Reliability/cost of operation, as opposed to features/fit/finish should be their goal.

  • avatar

    But then, when my dad’s F-150 dies, i’m sure he’ll replace it with something less truck-like.

    Old trucks don’t die, they just fade away…

  • avatar

    Since reading this article, I’ve been taking note of the number and make of old trucks I see on the road (or parked in driveways, but with current license and registration).

    Can’t say that I see the imbalance between old GMs and old Fords that Mr. Westbound sees. If anything, the rough count slightly favors the Fords (this is southcentral Pennsylvania). And these are WORKING trucks, used for hauling and towing (judging by their mud-splattered, dinged-up condition).

    Don’t know about the difference in retail values – I’ll take other posters’ word for it.

    It is true, however, that Dodges over 10 years old have virtually disappeared – at least around here.

    As for compact pickups – the cost differential between a compact and a full-size pickup isn’t as great as it would appear. Given that, most people go with the full-size pickup.

  • avatar

    As for compact pickups – the cost differential between a compact and a full-size pickup isn’t as great as it would appear. Given that, most people go with the full-size pickup.

    I can vouch for that; I purchased a 2000 Dakota last year that, had I been able to find a similar Ram with identical engine, options, etc. would have been within 1-3 thousand difference.

  • avatar

    Interesting rumor here regarding small pickup trucks:

    Toyota is aware of this potential market…and it makes sense for Scion which would not necessarily need to show huge volumes to qualify as a success.


  • avatar

    # fallout11:
    June 18th, 2007 at 11:22 am

    “I also share the opinion that the current Toyota Tacoma is now a midsize, despite published numbers, as I’ve test driven/shopped/considered it.”

    Would you also consider the Ranger to be midsized?

    Tacoma is 3″ wider, and 3″ longer.

  • avatar


    Philips bought Magnavox in the ’70s. They didn’t invent the name to sound American.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Last Friday’s Automotive News had a news item that said Nissan is preparing a diesel-powered version of its Titan pickup truck, for 2009. The engines are reportedly to be built by American engine-maker Navistar International Corporation, according to the source AN quoted, Nikkan Kogyo Shimburn, an industrial daily paper in Japan.

    If that works out, it might lead to selling a lot more Titans than Nissan is currently. It seems like more of the same intelligent and savvy use of the right suppliers by Carlos Ghosn. Nissan really wants those people who pull horse trailers, fifth wheel-trailers and haul concrete.

  • avatar

    Count me as someone who’d love a new small truck. However, I’m not willing to put up with the dinosaur known as the Ford Ranger. I’ve driven a newer F-150, and it’s been refined to the gills–of course, it sells better and makes more money. Chevy & GMC’s Canyon/Colorado aren’t as bad as the Ranger, but they aren’t very fuel efficient either.

    The car companies have made CUV’s using car platforms–certainly they could craft a nice unibody mini-hauler. I bet Chevy’s Cobalt/HHR platform could spawn a nice Ford Courier-like vehicle. Or perhaps a El-Camino like vehicle based upon the current Malibu?

  • avatar

    If I had a nickel for every rear window vinyl graphic I’ve seen of Calvin peeing on a rival brand’s logo, I could play the Atlantic City slots for the rest of my life.

    Now that’s funny!

  • avatar

    # Dynamic88:
    June 18th, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    “Would you also consider the Ranger to be midsized?
    Tacoma is 3″ wider, and 3″ longer.”

    No, I would not, and apparently neither would most people.
    To test, I parked a Ranger on one side of the current Tacoma, and had a friend park his Dakota (a midsized truck) on the other, then asked the first 5 people walking in to work to rank each, in size.
    Guess which one 4 out of 5 said was largest? Yep, the Taco.

  • avatar

    No matter how big it may appear to passersby, the reality is the Tacoma is 3″ wider than the Ranger (not really a full 3″, I rounded up) and 3″ longer. To me, these two trucks are the same size, for all practical purposes. The Ranger has a 1mpg advantage, but a bit less power.

    For comparission, the Dakota is narrower than the Tacoma by 1/2″, but taller by just over an inch. Length can’t really be compared because the Dakota doesn’t offer a regular cab (though I guess I could compare extended cabs).

    I guess one has to draw the line somewhere, and since the Tacoma is wider even than the Dakota one could call it a midsize. But, when I compare base models with 4 cyl engines, (which Dakota doesn’t offer) and look at gas mileage, the Tacoma seems more like a Ranger than a Dakota.

  • avatar

    Count me as one that likes small pick-ups.

    I had a Chevy S-10 with the 4 cylinder engine, manual transmission, and 2 wheel drive. I used it as a back up to my big work van. I’d use the pick-up to haul garbage, work tools, materials, etc., that I didn’t really need the van for. I wound up selling the pick-up for a car as I started using the van more and figured a car to be more fun driving.

    But a friend of mine has taken to using several 8 foot work trailers instead of a big work van, towed by a midsize SUV (Chevy TrailBlazer). He is able to customize each trailer for the job he is on and gets to drive a nicer tow vehicle.

    I could see myself doing the same thing as each trailer would weigh in at about 2500 LBS except that I would want a small pick-up instead with maybe a V6 option (a Diesel version would be nice).

  • avatar

    I wonder whether captive imports had any impact on the erosion of brand loyalty. After all, if (forex) Chevrolet was impressed enough with the Suzuki Sidekick/Vitara to slap a bowtie on it and sell it as a Chevy Tracker, then why not just buy the one with the Suzuki S badge? Ditto for various Dodge products that were just rebadged Mitsubishis. (IIRC, Ford captive imports have tended to be vehicles built in Ford factories overseas [such as the 1978-1980 Ford Fiesta].)

    If my hypothesis is right, once the badge mystique was broken by captive imports, people saw less reason to remain loyal to a given company’s vehicles. Why stay loyal to Chevrolet when Chevy isn’t loyal to itself, putting its name on Suzukis, Isuzus and Daewoos?

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