By on January 23, 2017

Midsize trucks - Images: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, GMFive members strong, America’s midsize pickup truck sector reported nearly 450,000 sales in 2016.

After claiming only 11 percent of the overall pickup truck market’s volume in 2013 and 2014 and 14 percent in 2015, 17 percent of all pickup truck sales in 2016 were produced by the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon, and Honda Ridgeline.

Midsize pickup truck sales growth wildly outperformed the overall auto industry in 2016, leaping forward nine times faster than the full-size truck sector, year-over-year.

Every candidate got in on the action, but one truck in particular did more than its fair share of the heavy lifting.

Toyota reported 191,631 Tacoma sales in the United States in 2016, an all-time record for America’s class-leading midsize pickup.2012-2016 U.S. midsize pickup truck sales chart - Image: © The Truth About CarsThe health of America’s pickup truck category was a major story in 2016. Yet while the auto industry reported record annual sales, only two truck nameplates did so. (The other, Ram’s P/U line, jumped 9 percent to 489,418 units.) Truck sales are healthy, but total truck volume is still down 17 percent from 2005 levels. Pickups accounted for 15 percent of the overall industry’s volume in 2016, not 19 percent as in 2005.

The Tacoma, despite reporting less noteworthy year-over-year percentage growth than its rivals in 2016, was the only midsize pickup to report an all-time annual sales record.

We reported in August that the Tacoma was so popular that production in San Antonio, Texas, and Tijuana, Baja California, had maxed out. By September, we learned Toyota was investing $150 million to dramatically increase production at the truck’s Mexican facility.

The Tacoma’s 191,631-unit record in 2016 translates to 43 percent of the midsize truck market.

But don’t mistake the dearth of record-setting performances from the Tacoma’s competitors as a sign of poor results.

At the bottom of the heap, Honda Ridgeline sales rose to 23,667 units, the best annual result for the Ridgeline since 2008. Yet the Ridgeline was not truly available until the second-half of 2016. Annualizing the Honda’s fourth-quarter performance, Ridgeline sales would have totaled nearly 44,000 units in 2016. While an admittedly low-volume number in comparison with the Ford F-Series, it would have ranked as the Ridgeline’s second-best year ever.

Ridgeline sales, meanwhile, are still on the rise. December was the second-generation Ridgeline’s best month yet.

Elsewhere, after TTAC suggested in July that Nissan was selling Frontiers “like it’s 2006,” Nissan ramped it up. By the end of 2016, annual Frontier volume jumped to a 15-year high of 86,926 sales. Compared with 2015, Frontier sales were up 38 percent, buoyed by the absence of a regular-duty Titan in Nissan showrooms for much of the year. Frontier sales have more than doubled since 2010.

At General Motors, the overall top seller of pickup trucks in America in each of the last two years, small/midsize pickup truck volume climbed to an 11-year high of 146,174 units, well in excess of early expectations. Three-quarters of GM’s non-full-size truck sales were Colorado-derived.

Total Colorado/Canyon volume jumped 28 percent compared with 2015, the first full year of the relaunched trucks. The GM duo now owns just under one-third of the midsize truck market.

Overall, small/midsize pickup volume in 2016 rose to the highest level since 2007, when trucks that aren’t available now — Ranger, Dakota, Raider, i-Series, B-Series — owned more than a quarter of the segment.

After midsize pickups fought back in 2016, Ford announced in the second week of 2017 that the Ranger will return in two years. Mitsubishi dealers are crying out for the import of the Triton, seven years after the last Dodge Dakota-based Mitsubishi Raider was sold. We’re expecting a Jeep Wrangler pickup in the next year or so, as well.

There’s plenty of reason to believe, therefore, that midsize pickups will continue to fight back in the next 12, 24, and 36 months.

Just don’t expect the Isuzu i-280 to reappear anytime soon.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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51 Comments on “2016 Was The Year Midsize Pickup Trucks Fought Back...”


  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Amazing that Ford, the full size truck leader, let this segment pass without an entry. Can the new midsized Ranger muscle its way to the top, or is this segment a huge missed opportunity? I’m going to stick my neck out and say ‘yes’ to both.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Lorenzo,
      Ford considered the global Ranger to big a competitor for the large investment into the aluminium wunder trux.

      Ford initially planned on the Ranger early in the piece, importing them from the Thais. The US-Thai FTA fell over when the Thai military overthrew the democratically elected government.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The current Ranger was designed to work for markets with little penetration by the F150. Meaning, largely designed and built for what in America would be F150 usage. If it was designed as an F150 complement, Ford would have differentiated it more. Made it perhaps smaller, lower load height, more fuel efficient, perhaps (cue Tacoma…) more specifically off-roadish…

      Doesn’t mean the current one couldn’t sell, but it’s not an immediately natural fit alongside the F150. More like as if Toyota would sold the global HiLux (designed for Tundra use cases) alongside the Tundra instead of the Taco.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No the current global Ranger was designed to be sold as the F100 in the US and slot between the then current Ranger and the F150. But then the less than full size truck market collapsed and we never got the F100 and the decision was made to soldier the Ranger until it was regulated out of existence.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Scoutdude,
          WTF?

          Not everything hinges on the US. The US now is less than 20% of the global economy and the Ranger is sold in 180 countries. Your outlook is quite limited.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            No your outlook is the seriously distorted one. Fact is that the Global Ranger was designed to be sold in the US. I never said it wasn’t supposed to be a global product just that it was designed to be sold in the US alongside the compact Ranger and full size F-series.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Scoutdude
            That is correct. Ford US then got cold feet and concentrated on the F150.
            Now that ” midsize ” market is opening up, they will now have a product to compete

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            It did look like small trucks were dying in the USA. I always argued that was because the small trucks available at that time were woefully outdated.
            Ford bet the farm on aluminum trucks which affected their decisions. the main reason though was this, Why go through the hassles of “Americanizing” the global Ranger when the Sport Trac was a flop and companies could buy a Transit Connect and old cheapskates could buy a Fiesta.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          I should perhaps have been a bit more precise: The global Ranger were not designed specifically in the context of an F150 complement. Instead, it’s primary mission was as an F150 substitute in markets where the F150 is a step to far size wise. That Ford US initially figured they could sell it alongside the F150 as well, does not mean this was the primary reason to bring it to market.

          As Ford has demonstrated, the Ranger doesn’t need the US. OTOH it, unlike the F150, does need non US markets. It would never have been built without a primary eye towards those.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @stuki
        You are right. It would have been more like the original Ranger to differentiate

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The resurgent midsize market was predictable. I do believe a couple of significant factors were involved. The first is the move or rejection by many of the traditional car. Many of these people have moved to SUVs and CUVs as well.

    I also believe GM with the more refined C twins offer a true alternative pickup that is in most cases more than capable of offering the expectations the 75% of daily dtiving pickup owners, the car alternative.

    The C twins had a large influence in how the public receives midsizers.

    I do read many comments regarding how full size pickups, in particular 1/2 ton are much more capable, but as I pointed out above 75% just want the utility of a pickup and just to dtive to and from work.

    Like cars all don’t want a particular size. Midsize numbers would be proportionally larger if it was viable to import them fairly.

    Imagine the take up of the midsize pickup if fuel prices were different.

    • 0 avatar
      phreshone

      The biggest reason for the resurgence is the change of the Section 187 deduction (Hummer Loophole) which used to give a substantial accelerated deduction for Pickups/SUV’s with a GVWR over 6000 lbs. Thus people who had any 1099/small business income could deduct pretty much 100% of the purchase price in year one, making it much more economical to purchase say a 1500 versus a Colorado… even though the Colorado was all that was needed…

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    It’s like how shoulder pads got so stupid-big and players went back to something more practical.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    I realize that probably ten people in the USA think like I do, but I’d like to see a Honda Ridgeline one size down. Something, maybe, Civic or CR-V based instead of Pilot based.

    A truck along the lines of the Ram 700.

    There isn’t anything in the market now like the old Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Hardbody, Ford Ranger, etc of the 1990s. I think there is some demand for a light duty, fuel efficient, 4 cylinder econo pickup. In my area at least, you can’t find anyone willing to part with a 10 year old 2wd, 5 speed Tacoma or Nissan Frontier. They are gold.

    I’d buy something like this. I don’t want a Colorado that’s as big as a Silverado was in 1995, roughly. I want a Honda Civic pickup…a modern day Rampage or VW “Rabbit” truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      The problem here is production. It is not viable to manufacture a relatively small number of the pickups you described in the US. This is due to US protectionist controls, there needs to be a market for 100k per annum market (source VW).

      A more open and free trade vehicle market in the US is needed. I don’t envisage this under Trump. He wants Americans to pay more for products, thus lowering tour standard of living.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @BAFO – It’s also not viable to *import* a small number of cars into the highly competitive US market. What we’re willing to pay hardly meets the expectations of global automakers anyway, even before federalized crash/emissions specs.

        What would compel them? Just ask all the automakers (Renault, Fiat, Isuzu, etc), that ran screaming (bloody murder) from the US market, but thrive in their home or third world markets.

        So who’s gonna cry for all the *awesome* Lada and Tata cars we can’t get???

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    Why do journalists go along with Honda’s charade and allow Ridgeline to fall into the “midsize” classification? It’s enormous. Exactly same width as F-150 in current generation. It is significantly lower, but that’s no help with parking (unless perhaps in some airport locations). The bed of Ridgeline is gigantic, even lengthwise.

    I remember when Accord grew up to its current size, there was some talk about bowing to reality and grouping it with Impala in reviews. But in a couple of years the exploding girth of Fusion (and Malibu) put a kibosh on it. But this has not yet happened with midsize trucks. Or has it?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The Ridgeline (and Pilot) is as wide as a full-size, yes, but it’s only as long as a midsize, with a midsize WB. It’s kind of an odd duck. Too bad that full-size width doesn’t translate to a front bench seat inside.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Why is this odd? This view contradicts your comment to Tylanner. You also have a generalised and narrow view of what a pickup is.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          It’s an odd duck, /dimensionally speaking/. Please elaborate on why this means I have a narrow (was that a pun?) view on what a pickup is, and how it contradicts what I said before.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Agree with Drzhivago138. The Ridgeline is an “odd duck” dimensionally. You view is narrow because it doesn’t mesh with his view.

            As Scoutdude points out, it was marketed as a full sized truck when first released.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      When it was first introduced I frequently saw it referred to as a full size pickup while I personally considered it a less than full size since you could never get it with a useful bed.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        It’s all relative. To those who remember the 9′ beds on one-ton trucks in the ’50s and ’60s, everything else seems “unusable.” Those of us who grew up with 6.5′ as the standard see the 8′ as “long” and the 5.5′ as “short.” But any bed size can be “useful” if you know the limitations.

        Except a Subaru Baja, that’s just a balcony.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          For a bought for a specific purpose work truck, any bed size can be useful.

          But for more of a general purpose, “don’t know what I’ll need it for but am keeping it for a long time” truck, 6.5, and 4 between wheel wells, were settled on for good reasons.

          Ditto for 5.5 in a crewcab car replacement. The “shortbeds” in many crewcab midsizers really do preclude an incredible amount of stereotypical “truck” use cases.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      An F-150 SuperCrew 4×4 w/ 5.5 foot bed is 22 inches longer. Even a Tacoma Double Cab with the short bed is two inches longer than the Ridgeline, albeit 4.2 inches narrower (and equally tall). While the Tacoma’s bed is 3.5 inches shorter and 8.5 inches slimmer (the F-150’s is two inches longer and half an inch wider) there are Tacomas with beds that stretch 10 inches longer than Ridgeline’s with overall length that’s 15.5 inches longer.

      F-150 SuperCrew also has 20% more passenger volume than Ridgeline, and it’s noticeable.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “F-150 SuperCrew also has 20% more passenger volume than Ridgeline, and it’s noticeable.”

        That is a key feature that made me chose the F150 supercrew over a Tacoma. Add to that; it was cheaper than a Tacoma after rebates and could tow and haul more.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “The bed of Ridgeline is gigantic, even lengthwise.”

      Really? Is the box on the second gen Ridgeline bigger than first? That’s always been my complaint w/Ridgeline is that the bed is too darn short. I get to the point where I don’t have to tow anything heavier than 2 tons & I’d consider a Ridgeline providing I felt I could deal with the bed size.

      • 0 avatar
        klossfam

        The Gen 2 Ridgeline box is 5’4″ vs the Gen 1 at 5’0″ and width is now 58″ (vs I believe 54″ in the Gen 1). Still a shallow box but no more so than the Gen 1. Definitely the biggest short bed of the mid-sizers in L x W.

        I know my new Gen 2 Ridgeline is within an inch in WIDTH of my past 2015 RAM 1500 but the RAM “felt” much wider…The length difference is 19″ however on the RAM. The Ridgeline, overall, definitely ‘fits’ in the mid-sizer category IMO.

        Example dims (all crew cabs with short/standard bed):

        Ridgeline 210″ L x 78″ W x 71″ H
        Tacoma 212″ L x 75″ W x 71″ H
        RAM 1500 229″ L x 79″ W x 77″ H

  • avatar
    tylanner

    The fact that Honda sells even a single Ridgeline just makes me question my true understanding of the average consumer.

    In get brand loyalty but do that many people really walk in to the dealership and just blindly trade in their Honda for a Honda?

    Nearly all of those 30,000 Ridgeliens must have been previous Honda owners…that is the only thing that makes sense to me…

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      How so? Some customers want a CUV with a bed, and that’s what Honda gives them. If they wanted a traditional truck, they’d buy a truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I’d say the Ridgeline offers these people what they expect and want from a pickup.

      I would assume they want some pickup utility with carlike performance and handling.

      A pickup doesn’t need to be what you expect or want or what I expect or want.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Why do you assume it is done “blindly?” Perhaps folks went to several dealerships and test drove numerous vehicles of the type and happened to prefer the Ridgeline when they plunked down their money to make the purchase. I haven’t owned a Honda in more years than I care to mention and if I were able to afford a new truck, I’d seriously be looking at one. It apparently fits the bill for what the buyer is looking for.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      @tylanner: People buy the Ridgeline because it gives them exactly what they want: all the utility they need in a comfortable and reliable package. It will do what most folks want from a truck but it is also very comfortable and easy to live with as a daily driver. Call it an F-150/Ranchero hybrid but it works for a lot of people.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      While I can’t say I know anyone with a Ridgline I do know a few Honda owners and yes they just go back and purchase another without considering any other brand at all.

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        “While I can’t say I know anyone with a Ridgline I do know a few Honda owners and yes they just go back and purchase another without considering any other brand at all.”

        The same can be said of a large percentage of customers of every single brand.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The Ridge’ is the only midsize that makes any kind of sense to me. It drives and handles SOOO much nicer than the rest, particularly on slippery surfaces like snow/ice, and is so much more efficiently packaged, that it makes the others seem like the weird anachronisms they truly are.

      In the rest of the world, where full sizers just don’t fit, hence people buy midsizers to do full size work, the truckiness of the others make sense. But in the US, where permanent 25% off sticker, 0% financing for one thousand months, full sizers are being thrown at people for fogging a mirror, the Ridge’ is exactly what a family truckster for those who don’t need nor want a full size ought to be.

      I’m talking about crewcabs here. For shorter cabs, longer beds, the others win by walkover. But then again if spacious bed and short overall length is a priority, why not get a RCSB full size?

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Its not that full sizers don’t fit as much as dull sizers aren’t competitive.

        If governments globally treated puckups as occurs in the US, full sizers would dominate.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          You guys are in your own special bubble (a good one for truck guys, but still..) down there.

          In urban Europe and Asia parking infrastructure, as often as not, simply does not accommodate US full sizers.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @stuki
            I thought they sold F100/ early F150’s till 1980 here but I noticed they had locally assembled F150’s much later.
            http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/holtze/cars-vans-utes/1989-ford-f150-xlt-4×4-xlt-4×4-white-4-speed-manual-4×4-utility/1128075385

            On the other end of the scale a local Trucking magnate started his business with a F500 in 1960
            Yes in Europe especially US Pickups would be hard to park

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @tylanner – I don’t want to feed the stereotype, but the majority of the one’s I’ve seen are being driven by women. I don’t think that all of the buyers are “Honda” minions. I agree with Drzhivago138. Traditional pickup buyers aren’t going to buy a Ridgeline. I’d buy one for my wife or kids but not as a replacement for my F150.

  • avatar
    eCurmudgeon

    Can a return of the El Camino or Ranchero be far behind?

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    The GM twins are closing in quickly on the Taco in sales (191K vs 146K). I’d be surprised if they don’t outsell it in 2017. For what I use a truck for either one of the twins are a better choice over the Taco. They’d absolutely stomp the Taco if you could get them with the 4.3 V6 gasser available in the 1/2 tons. Don’t need an off-roader with a gutless engine (unless you rev the piss out of it)that can’t get out of its own way as soon as you try to use like a truck.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Big Al from Oz reflects my thinking. I’m much more likely to be hauling a few bales of peat moss than two tons of rocks or a load of rebar. And I can enjoy he ride and parallel parking of a Ridgeline.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree, I use the bed of my midsize trucks a lot but I do not find a need for a full size truck. Also my average mpgs with a 4 cylinder 5 speed manual averages out a little higher. Nothing wrong with full size if you need or want it but not everyone has exactly the same needs or wants.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Most people who want to just commute in their pickup, and very occasionally haul something really need an El Camino. GM could build one out of the Impala with heavy duty rear coils and a 1/4 ton rating, and have a big seller.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I didn’t even read the replies but let me take this opportunity to tell the other Al to shove it


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