Editorial: Someone Is Making Money In Mid-Size Trucks

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

Hats off to Toyota. With the release of the revised 2016 Tacoma, they sit ready to be both the reigning king of the mid-size truck market, and the auto maker that is best positioned to profit off this niche segment.

Serious observers of the industry agree that mid-size trucks don’t matter. Once a popular segment, they have been on an inexorable decline in recent years.

Just over a decade ago, the Ford Ranger accounted for 226,000 units alone. Today, the entire mid-size truck market is worth roughly 225,000 units, in a truck market worth about 1.7 million units, and an overall market of over 17 million units. T he Toyota Tacoma sold 155,000 units, making up 6 percent of the truck market, down 2.8 percent from 2013. The second place Nissan Frontier sold just 74,000 units.

A new look and some incremental improvements in fuel economy may be all that’s needed – especially with gas at record lows. The GM mid-sizers might be better trucks in an objective sense, but much of the Taco’s appeal in key markets like California likes in the fact that it’s not a domestic truck. In the same way that California surf bros wouldn’t be caught dead driving an American truck, the heartland truck consumer won’t entertain the idea of a mid-size import truck – and in the most important pickup markets, that will forever doom them to irrelevancy, since a domestic full-size truck represents a better value and a better badge.

Reaction to the new Tacoma was muted on this site and elsewhere, with many wondering if it was just a refresh of the current model. But why would Toyota do anything else? The Taco has been the top dog in the mid-size truck market for over a decade. Toyota is even planning to up capacity at a second plant to build even more Tacomas (partially to help free up capacity for the Tundra at its Texas plant, partially to lower labor costs by building them in Mexico).

The end goal, of course, is profit. Mid-size trucks are a fairly tough segment to make it in. But Toyota already owns the niche, and the combination of already amortized development costs and a commanding sales lead only strengthens their position. GM may well offer the better truck – but they won’t have the better balance sheet.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Spike_in_Brisbane Spike_in_Brisbane on Jan 10, 2015

    I always get sucked in to comment when pickups are discussed. I don't know why because it's been decades since I owned a Rodeo. Pickups in the US are huge but they are also cheap, roads are roomy and parking spaces are designed to cater for them. We have somewhat similar conditions in Oz and I am sure if the big buggers were available here for similar prices they would sell like donuts. BUT these monsters are only built in LHD and cost double once converted. Hence we are stuck with the global mid size trucks. Having said that, Ford Australia did most of the design for the new Ranger which is cheaply built in Thailand. It always beats the Colorado in reviews and would probably outsell it in the States but would never seriously threaten the F-series.

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    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Jan 12, 2015

      @Lie2me, Just added this before you submit another asinine retort; "The Wakefern Food Corporation, founded in 1946 and based in Keasbey, New Jersey, U.S.,[1][2] is the largest Retailers' co-operative group of supermarkets in the United States and largest employer in New Jersey (36,000 workers)." "Wakefern owns one of the Northeast's largest trucking fleets and is the fourth-largest cooperative in the United States.[4] In 2014, its revenue was $14.7 billion." So they buy from Walmart??? It seems they are supplying third parties with wholesale items. "Wakefern supplies all of its members' ShopRite stores as well as the PriceRite (founded in 1995) and The Fresh Grocer chains. In July, 2007, the cooperative announced that for the first time, it was offering its wholesale services to third-party supermarket operators, in the Northeastern United States and other areas of the country. Since then, Wakefern has announced deals to supply the Gristedes and Morton Williams chains of supermarkets in the New York City area, Heinen's Fine Foods chain in Ohio, as well as The Market Place in Bermuda" I can see why many of your comments on TTAC are snide and juvenile. You seem to have as much of the auto-industry as retailing in the US.

  • SnarkyRichard SnarkyRichard on Jan 13, 2015

    @ PonchoIndian . The Toyota frames that rotted were made by an American company called Dana . And it will be a cold day in H E double toothpicks when I buy another GM vehicle since my first two cars were GM and total junk ! Not to mention my Dads's brand new 69 and 74 Chevy pickups rusting way into nothingness !

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    • PonchoIndian PonchoIndian on Jan 14, 2015

      @SnarkyRichard Snarky Please provide some source for this lawsuit Your argument still doesn't hold much water if you just open your eyes a litte. HighDC, The GC that you bitch about being a POS that you gave to a daughter or grand daughter? The way you say you don't have money when you are buying people in your family cars and then buying $50K cars for your immediate household like it's nothing?

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Once e-mail was adopted by my former employer, we were coached about malice software as early as the 90's. We called it "worms" back then.They were separating the computers that ran the power plants from the rest of the system in the early 00's. One plant supervisor loaded vacation pictures from a thumb drive on his work PC. His PC was immediately isolated and the supervisor in question was made an example of via a disciplinary notice. Word spread quickly!!Last I heard, they still had their own data center!! Cloud Computing, what's that?!?! 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3SpeedAutomatic At this time, GM had a "Me Too" attitude towards engine development:[list][*]the Euro luxury brands have diesels, so can we via an Olds V8[/*][*]variable value timing, welcome to the brave new world of Cadillac V8-6-4[/*][*]an aluminum block V8 engine via the HT4100, the go-go 80's[/*][*]double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, no sweat, just like the Asian brands via NorthStar. [/*][/list]When you mindset is iron block and cast iron heads, life if easy. However, each time, GM failed to understand the nuances; intricate differences; and technical difficulty in each new engine program. Each time, GM came away with egg on its face and its reputation in ruin.If you look today, the engines in most Cadillacs are the same as in many Chevrolets. 🚗🚗🚗
  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉