By on October 25, 2018

2019 Ford Ranger at MAP - Image: FordJust ahead of the launch of a new Ford Ranger, production of which began earlier this month, midsize trucks’ share of the overall U.S. pickup truck market is up to a respectable nine-year high.

Thanks to significant year-over-year improvements from the two top sellers in the segment plus meaningful increases from the third and fourth-ranked midsize pickups, category-wide volume has grown by more than 60,000 units during the first nine months of 2018. Compared with the same period in 2017, volume in the much larger full-size pickup truck segment hasn’t even grown by half that much.

If you’re a pickup truck buyer, you remain far more likely to acquire a full-size F-150, Silverado, Ram, Sierra, Tundra, or Titan than a Tacoma, Colorado, Frontier, Canyon, or Ridgeline. But the slice of the pie afforded to the five-strong midsize sector is above 18 percent for the first time since 2009.

Could the new Ford Ranger push midsize trucks over the one-fifth mark for the first time since 2006?

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro grey - Image: ToyotaIt certainly seems likely. Through the first three quarters of 2018, a mere 3,800 extra midsize pickup truck sales per month would be sufficient to drive the sub-sector’s share of the truck market above 20 percent, a tipping point that could give inactive manufacturers itchy feet.

For a reborn Ranger, 3,800 monthly sales seems an easy target despite the truck’s soaring MSRPs. (A base Ranger starts above $25K.) But where will the Ranger’s sales come from? After all, as Steph Willems already reported, Ford doesn’t believe the Ranger will steal customers away from the F-150. What the Ranger adds to the midsize sector it may simply be taking away from the Tacoma, Colorado, Canyon, Frontier, and Ridgeline.

The well from which the Ranger will draw remains to be fully understood. In the lead-up to the Ford’s arrival, however, it’s increasingly clear that Americans are steadily more interested in midsize trucks at large. Only a year ago, we noted the level at which midsize truck market share had plateaued. After perking up in 2016 with the arrival of a new Tacoma, U.S. midsize pickup truck market share declined in 2017, not a particularly welcome environment for the Ranger. Indeed, since the recession, the midsize sector’s share of the pickup truck market averaged just 14.2 percent, annually.

Truck Oct. 2018 YTD Oct. 2017 YTD % Change
Toyota Tacoma 183,909 147,421 24.8%
Chevrolet Colorado 104,838 83,034 26.3%
Nissan Frontier 59,574 55,208 7.9%
GMC Canyon 25,273 23,269 8.6%
Honda Ridgeline 22,804 26,576 -14.2%
Total 396,398 335,508 18.1%

2018 is telling a different story. With improved availability, Toyota Tacoma sales are booming. With one-quarter of 2018 remaining, Toyota has already reported more Tacoma sales than in any full calendar year prior to 2016. Toyota may well sell 250,000 Tacomas in America in 2018, having never topped 200,000 annual sales in the nameplate’s history.

At General Motors, where early forecasts suggested the Colorado and Canyon could combine for 100,000-130,000 annual sales, the Colorado alone has already generated more than 100,000 sales in 2018. And GM still has a quarter of the year – plus the Colorado’s twin – to count.2018 chevrolet colorado red - Image: ChevroletAfter suffering a noticeable decline in 2017, Nissan Frontier volume is once again on the rise. For just the second time since 2001, Nissan is on track for more than 80,000 Frontier sales in 2018. 2019 will be the current Frontier’s 15th model year.

Honda, meanwhile, plugs along with the second-generation Ridgeline, neither experiencing the highs nor the lows of the first-generation Ridgeline, at least not yet. 2018 will be just the second full year for the current Ridgeline. Incidentally, year No.2 for the first Ridgeline produced a 14.7-percent decline, very much in line with the decline experienced by the current Ridgeline in its second year.

The Ridgeline, of course, is the exception to the rule (in so many ways.) Midsize truck sales are rising fast even as full-size pickup truck momentum slows. After more than a decade of disappearances and disappointment, Americans will acquire substantially more than half a million non-full-size trucks in 2018, a feat not accomplished since 2007, when current nameplates battled with the Suzuki Equator, Mitsubishi Raider, Mazda B-Series, Isuzu i-Series, and Dodge Dakota.

Long may competition reign.

[Images: Ford, GM, Toyota]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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22 Comments on “U.S. Midsize Pickup Truck Market Share Is at a Nine-Year High, Just In Time for a New Ford Ranger...”

  • avatar

    Dude, where’s my turbo diesel?


    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I’m surprised Ford didn’t offer the 2.0 litre diesel in the US Ranger to go up against the GM Twins.

      I also think the 2.7EcoThirst should of been an option, even here in Australia ……. as well as the Ranger Raptor for the US.

      But I think the US Ranger Raptor will not arrive since the chassis is based on the global chassis (stronger?). The US Ranger has a US unique chassis, which means lightened, hence no US Ranger Raptor.

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t forget how that F-150 Raptor folded on a relatively moderate jump and how so many bent just going over some extremely modest whoop-de-doos. Videos were all over YouTube about it.

  • avatar

    Is the Frontier that bad of a truck, or just old?

    I notice the “new” Tacoma for 2016 wasn’t terribly new in terms of hard points, but enough revision was done to fit the bill (some chassis and powertrain changes).

    • 0 avatar

      The Frontier is old, but I’m sure it’s that bad. I’ve ridden in the back seat of the four-door cab, and I thought it was cramped, compared to my 2013 Tacoma DoubleCab.

      The third-gen Tacoma is really pretty new (new engine, transmission, frame, sheetmetal (even though the doors look like they’d bolt onto a second-gen) and interior. More high-strength steels used in the structure, but still rear drum brakes (Toyota doesn’t think you need four-wheel-discs), and no turbo diesel (Toyota doesn’t think you need that, either).

      I drove a friend’s new 2016, and it made me glad I own a 2013.

      • 0 avatar

        Is the Frontier that bad of a truck, or just old?

        Just old as far as I can tell. It makes it very “truck-y” which is what people used to look for in a truck before it became the default family sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2016 Tacoma has new exterior sheetmetal, some different crash structure in the front end, taller bedsides, and new motor/trans and interior. That’s it!

      They’ve been making the same truck since 2005, and even then it carried over a lot from the first gen.

    • 0 avatar

      The Frontier is just ancient. I don’t think it is that bad. The driving position is much better than in the new Tacoma but the back seat is better in the Tacoma. I would argue the 4.0 V6 in the Nissan is better than the 3.5 V6 in the Tacoma. Of course, one can buy a 2017 V6 crew cab Frontier for 21,000 while a 2017 V6 Tacoma with same miles and comparable trim is about 28,000.

      • 0 avatar

        Since I don’t use the back seat of ANY of my vehicles for carrying people (with very limited exceptions) I couldn’t care less how comfortable they are. Those passengers aren’t likely to spend more than 20 minutes in that back seat at the most on any one trip. I’d much rather be able to put gear back there and not people. Too many extended-cab types won’t let you do that.

  • avatar

    At least Ford is stepping up and saying ‘if you really insist on having “less” it’ll cost you a bunch MORE, especially after lack of rebates’. And rightly so.

    To hell with taking a loss for no good reason, I’m sure they’ve done enough of that with smaller sedans.

  • avatar

    Have an F150 5.0L now, will probably look at ranger or even bronco when the time comes in a few years.

  • avatar

    I have a 2017 Frontier and there are a couple of reasons why I picked it over the competition.

    1) Price- I got mine as a dealer demo/loaner with 5K miles on it for 21K. It is the crew cab, 4×4. Couldn’t beat the price then, still can’t beat it.

    2) It is bulletproof. They have been making this truck for so long, all the bugs are worked out of it. it is rock solid. Fully boxed frame based off the Titan and a very nice 4L V6

    3) The toyota dealer wouldn’t budge on the price and I didn’t consider the GM twins

    It doesn’t have the soft touch spots like the newer trucks, and yes the interior looks old. I have the base model S so it doesn’t have power windows or locks but it has most everything else…..4 wheel disc brakes, cruise, A/C, bluetooth radio, steering wheel controls, etc.

    I’m a Ford guy deep inside…my dad retired from Ford, but I do not like the engines/transmissions they have been making lately. Too many issues so they are off the table as well.

    • 0 avatar

      What’s holding back the Frontier is the “Nissan” badge. It’s nowhere near as trusted as it used to be, for good reason,b ut the current aging Frontier has to be rock solid by now. I’d hit the junkyards for upgrades, the plug-n-play variety especially. Find a donor Pro 4X and score big. I did similar with my ’04 base super cab, F-150 4X4 rubber floor,
      cheapskate special, bought new.

      Its 16 valve 4.6 V8 and 4-speed auto had been around since the early ’90s and in too many Ford cars/suvs/vans/pickups to mention, with new and used parts everywhere in case I ever needed them. But a couple years in to owning it I found wrecked rollover FX4 of the same year. Most every upgrade was bolt on. The first thing I grabbed were the power windows (plug-n-play) and door locks.

  • avatar

    I am a bit worried about the turbo engine. For my driving needs would probably be ok, but still…I would much rather have the diesel engine they have in Europe unless it adds 5,000 to the vehicle which it will probably do. I would pay as much as 1,000-1500 extra for the diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      The 2.3 has been around for a while now, and the 2.0 which it’s based on longer. I think the engine will do okay.

      I personally think a 2.7 EcoThirst should of been offered along with the 2.5 NA petrol engine and the new grunty 2.0 litre diesel.

      I might add the new diesel is around 210hp and 370ftlb of torque. Which is quite good for a small diesel.

      • 0 avatar

        Big Al, I just got back from Europe three days ago. I’ve seen one or two Rangers in the wild. Of course, all diesel. Looks like a handsome truck, dare I say even more so than the Hilux although the Hilux is a lot more common. All the agroindustrial groups there have massive fleets of Hilux. Not sure the reason behind it. Must be the price, or may be Hilux’s legendary reliability?

  • avatar

    I fully expect the Ranger to pull at least 50,000 sales off the F-series.
    I fully expect the Ranger to pull at least 50,000 sales off the Tacoma.
    Anything more will probably come from the crossover market.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    People love pickups in ‘murica and the Land of Oz.

    There’s one thing I have noticed and I’ll call it “Peak Pickup”.

    Peak Pickup has nothing to do with quantity of pickups sold, but to do with capability. I think the US has reached and possibly exceeded Peak Pickup.

    There is a market for pickups that can tow huge loads. We have US pickups in Australia and people buy them as toys, to tow toys. We also have people who only need to tow tows that is just to large for a car to handle.

    The US is no different. I think the majority of daily driving pickup owners have little need to tow 10 000 or even 7 000lbs, like Australia, but, we do have people who want to tow that much.

    Now, comes along the global midsizer, a very capable vehicle for it’s size rivalling half ton pickups in capability and exceeds them off road and is overall large enough for the average fat ass Aussie or ‘murican and his obese wife and 1.643 children to go to the beach, camping, fishing and tow a boat, off roading, etc.

    Fortunately the ‘murica doesn’t get our midsizers that can tow nearly 8 000lbs and carry on average 2 500lbs or more.

    I think Peak Pickup Capability has reached it’s limit for the average Joe and the new midsizer can do pretty much what an average ‘murican half ton did a decade or so ago and do it cheaper.

    The new midsizers are not the midsizers or compact pickups of old, they are refined, have some decent grunt and are cheaper than a fullsize half ton to do the job, quite capably.

    (The new midsize will not overtake the ‘murican half ton. ‘murican half ton will only be challenged if cheap imports come into the US (ie, no chicken tax)).

  • avatar

    In 1989 Mazda looked around and said, “Why is no one building an affordable, fun sports car?” The MX-5 was born. Someone in the industry should take a similar look around and ask, “Why is no one building an ACTUALLY compact, affordable, fuel efficient, inexpensive truck?”. Here in Canada all these “mid-size” trucks start north of $30,000 and the ones people actually buy are north of $40,000. Crazy.

    Come on Mazda, do it again. Put the 2.5L normally aspirated SKYACTIV under the hood of a new B-Series truck that’s compact, lightweight, offers a true base equipment package that Canadians can buy for $25,000 and Americans can buy for $3.74.

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