By on January 28, 2020

Trail Trek Tour 2019 - 2019 Ford Ranger FX4 (1) - Image: FordWith best-ever sales from the segment-leading Toyota Tacoma, sales of midsize pickup trucks in the United States jumped 22 percent in 2019. That’s nearly nine times the rate of growth experienced by full-size pickup trucks in the U.S. last year, enough to drive market share of the smaller trucks to a 13-year high.

In fact, for the first time since the economic collapse of 2009, more than one-fifth of the pickups sold in America were not full-size trucks.

The Tacoma, which only inched forward in 2019, is not deserving of all the credit. New and reborn pickup truck nameplates contributed 130,000 sales to the midsize ledger over the last 12 months. That was more than enough to dramatically shake up the segment.

Whether due to their own old age or the reincarnation of GM’s old Ford Ranger rival, sales of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon took an 8-percent year-over-year hit in a segment that grew its sales by 22 percent. The Colorado and Canyon, like the Ranger, were briefly discontinued trucks before returning from hiatus in time for the 2015 model year. There’s no denying the twins continue to sell at a high level. Their combined 155,129 sales earned the duo nearly one quarter of the market in 2019, second only to the Tacoma’s 39-percent market share.

Forever battling supply constraints that intermittently limit Tacoma sales, Toyota’s incremental year-over-year growth in 2019 (1.3 percent) comes after a 24-percent surge in 2018. The Tacoma hasn’t quite maxed out, but at over 20,000 sales per month, it’s the only truck to generate anything like the sales volume produced by the top full-size trucks. The Tacoma actually outsold the GMC Sierra by a 7-percent margin in 2019.

U.S. midsize pickup truck market share 2005-2019 - Image: © TTACWith a replacement finally in sight, U.S. sales of the Nissan Frontier fell 16 percent from the model’s 2016 high-water mark. Largely unchanged over the span of a decade and a half, the Frontier was finally knocked off the midsize truck podium in 2019 thanks to the Ranger rise. Still, for Nissan, over 70,000 Frontier sales is a gift: the tooling has been paid off many times over and the outgoing Frontier – unrefined, utilitarian, unreasonably challenging to u-turn – is basically a license to print money.

Praised by critics but generally loathed by consumers, the Honda Ridgeline ticked up slightly after slumping in 2018. Only 1 out of every 20 midsize truck buyers choose the Ridgeline; only 1 percent of the 3.1 million overall truck buyers fall for its charms. Ridgeline sales peaked in its first full year, 2006, when 50,193 were sold. 2019 was the nameplate’s sixth-best year on record.

Midsize Truck 2019 2018 YOY % Change
Toyota Tacoma 248,801 245,659 1.3%
Chevrolet Colorado 122,304 134,842 -9.3%
Ford Ranger 89,571
Nissan Frontier 72,369 79,646 -9.1%
Jeep Gladiator 40,047
Honda Ridgeline 33,334 30,592 9.0%
GMC Canyon 32,825 33,492 -2.0%
Midsize Trucks 639,251 524,231 21.9%
Full-Size Trucks 2,481,330 2,420,162 2.5%
TOTAL 3,120,581 2,944,393 6.0%

As sales of the Jeep Wrangler slipped by 12,000 units, the brand added 40,047 sales via the Wrangler-based Gladiator. To an extent, the Wrangler competes off in its own corner of the playground. It’s sized a bit different, priced a bit different, and is available with a range of components (three engines, for example, or soft and hard tops) that competitors don’t offer. The Gladiator joins the Ridgeline and Canyon by bringing up the rear of the segment, in the Gladiator’s case with just 6 percent of the market. Unlike Honda, of course, the Gladiator has an extremely high-volume relative in the full-size sector. There were very nearly as many Ram trucks sold in 2019 as there were midsize trucks.Image: FCAAs a one-two punch, however, nothing competes with the Ford F-Series and Ford Ranger. Combined, Ford’s truck lineup produced 986,097 U.S. sales in 2019, the most since 1,022,421 were sold in 2005. Today, with 89,571 annual sales, the Ranger isn’t just a bigger and more capable and less popular truck than it was when Ford averaged over 300,000 Ranger sales per year in the 1990s, it’s also positioned in a very different corner of the market. In 2008, Ranger pricing started just a tick over $15,000, nearly $5,000 less than a basic Toyota Camry. Today, pricing for the base Camry and base Ranger fall neatly in line with one another.

All told, with the midsize segment shaping up in a distinctly modern format, truck buyers in the U.S. turned to midsize trucks for 20.5 percent of their truck acquisitions. That’s not quite back to the pre-recession 21.2-percent perch observed in 2006, but it’s nearly double the share midsize trucks produced only five years ago.

[Images: Ford, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler]

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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45 Comments on “U.S. Midsize Pickup Truck Market Share Jumped to a 13-Year High in 2019; Sales Rose 22 Percent...”

  • avatar

    The ranger is doing pretty well. I would have thought Gladiator would just crest 50k but I guess not. I really don’t see many Rangers yet but the Gladiators have become pretty common in my neighborhood.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    Obviously passenger vehicles only make up a small percentage of global emissions, but i’m so happy that these essentially emissions-exempt vehicles are proliferating at rapid pace.

    Gladiators and Rangers are starting to pop up more and more frequently at the Microsoft parking lots, so I know there is a value to society to have as many trucks on the road as possible.

    Imagine if there were requirements to be eligible to purchase emissions exempt vehicles such as proving use or need. My heart cries at all the amazing sports cars which are impacted in design and performance (or existence) at having to comply with emission regs unnecessarily.

    • 0 avatar

      These trucks are not emissions exempt by any stretch of the word, in fact if you climb under one you will find likely more than one catalytic converter, some unfortunately have DI, 8 speed transmissions, and that’s scratching the surface.

      Please reveal to me where you heard this absurd lie.

    • 0 avatar

      “i’m so happy that these essentially emissions-exempt vehicles are proliferating at rapid pace.”

      Yeah, that’ll teach those silly liberals that ridiculously care about nonsense like clean air and water.

      “My heart cries at all the amazing sports cars which are impacted in design and performance (or existence) at having to comply with emission regs unnecessarily.”

      What the hell are you talking about? We’re in the middle of a horsepower renaissance. Sports cars are fewer because people aren’t buying as many as they did 20 years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      1. Trucks aren’t emissions exempt. They’re CAFE exempt.
      2. What amazing sports cars have been compromised? The death of sports cars have come people not buying them.
      3. People aren’t buying them because toys are expensive. They’re expensive to buy, insure, fuel, and maintain. Most Americans don’t have that kind of disposable income to burn on a depreciating asset.

      • 0 avatar

        The Gas Guzzler tax is the “truck’ exemption you’re confusing. Except SUV/CUVs, minivans, cube utilities, are also included as “trucks” by CAFE.

        Except everything (light duty) has to answer to CAFE standards when averaging all the MPG figures of a given automaker, “trucks” or not.

    • 0 avatar

      Trucks are just counted differently then cars but still fall under Cafe. But the ecosport is also classed as a truck so…..

    • 0 avatar

      There isnt a single new car or truck that is “emissions exempt”. I dont know where you get your information, but all passenger vehicles have to comply with EPA emissions standards, even trucks. And vehicle emissions in North America are at a historic low.

  • avatar

    The weird thing is that I’ve seen a total of TWO new Rangers out in the wild… where are all of these 90k trucks being sold?! It’s telling, I see so many of the old Rangers (’93-’11) still on the streets in Indy that they’re basically vehicular white noise. Impressive, especially seeing so many of the 93-97 trucks still doing daily driver/hauler duty, many in reasonable cosmetic shape. My own experience with a ’97 and ’94 confirms, they are incredibly durable and commendably reliable rigs.

    • 0 avatar

      Ranger seemed like a slow ramp up of production.

      It seems they lead with more highly trimmed models like the Lariat and FX4 models but I have started to see XLTs running around.

      I have not yet seen an extended cab model in the wild, judging by what’s on the ground you would think it was being sold as a crew cab only affair.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a funny I saw several last spring then nothing until yesterday when I saw a crew cab and than an extended cab this morning. I really am also shocked they sold that many based on what I see on the ground.

    • 0 avatar

      Checked the local dealer site. They have 84 F-150 35 super duties and 7 Rangers. Not sure if that’s because of the rate of sale or inventory issues thou. Local Toyota dealer has 13 Tacomas and 6 Tundras.

      • 0 avatar

        Local GMC Dealer generally has a lot mix of 90% Sierra/10% Canyon on the truck side.

        That’s not that unusual.

        I have noticed that midsize extended cab trucks are almost always either fleet or purchased by retired gentlemen who want to say they still keep a truck around.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s all about the frame. That’s what keeps these rigs hammering over the potholes for two decades plus.

      • 0 avatar

        Until said frame rots out, which takes longer on the Rangers than a Toyota (it’s thicker metal), but does happen. My ’97 was looking thin with a small perforation near the shock mounts (and the radiator core support rusted right off at the front body mounts), despite by outward appearances the truck having basically zero visible rust. My ’94 was much better in this regard. Just a tad of bubbling starting on the cab corners and rear wheel arch, but all the frame had was surface rust, it was rock solid. But yes in terms of overall durability they are fantastic, especially the older ones with the twin-I beam. I thought nothing of popping a wheel up on the curb when miscalculating a tight u-turn. Not the most comfortable ride but they could take the worst of Indy roads in the spring and shrug them right off.

  • avatar

    The new Ranger is an embarrassment to the Ranger nameplate (which I owned.) Savagegeese skewered it as a marketing exercise to ride off of its predecessor’s well respected reputation, and it’s clear Ford didn’t even try with engineering or even building it- I don’t think there’s a vehicle for sale with shoddier engineering or assembly, and that’s including those FIATs.

    The only way I can imagine someone (non-fleet) buying one is if they are such a Ford apologist they didn’t bother to test drive any of the competition and realize even the 15 year old Nissan Frontier is a significantly better truck. And once you factor in Ford’s consistent reputation of building total junk, no friggin way.

  • avatar

    Saw a new Ranger on the road today – why is it so high off the ground? This one appeared to be totally stock, not lifted, yet appeared to be as high up as a full sizer. The GM twins also suffer from a belt-line that is as high as my neck. Plus given the problems with the A8 I wouldn’t take one if you gave it to me. So I am still waiting for a replacement for my ’02 V8 Dakota. Are we going to get a baby Ram?

  • avatar

    “sales of midsize pickup trucks in the United States jumped 22 percent in 2019”

    So it turns out that there *is* a market for less-than-full-size trucks. Hmmm.

    This Tacoma sales growth curve is impressive:

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah there’s a market, and it’s beginning of a renaissance. Think about it. Cars suck, they want too much for them, poor resale value, CUVs are cliched, Gen X’ers no longer haul babies and they’re the bulk of the spendy market.

      Fullsize pickups are just too big for most Americans, but all pickups are considered sporty, begging for personalization, and not going out of style.

      We’ll eventually get midsizer “regular cabs” back, but with 7 ft beds required. Fleet sales of midsize pickups will be strong again, and with enough retail/fleet, there’s no reason that they can’t be as profitable as fullsize Big Three pickups.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      The is a market, unfortunately looking at the numbers as a whole it seems to be mainly comprised of former midsized sedan drivers as full-sized sales are continuing to grow.

  • avatar

    Just yesterday I saw a steelie wheeled new Ranger.

    I want to like these… but man, turbo-4 with an automatic just doesn’t do it for me. Yeah I know it’s way faster than my Nissan hardbody of yore, but I really don’t want or need that much performance for a small truck. It’s for hauling junk and project stuff, not for drag racing.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      The thing is, for most people it isn’t just for hauling junk and projects…it also serves as the thing they drive every time they need to drive. I had an automatic hardbody. It was slow but not much more so than the double digit horsepower econoboxes of the time. That type of performance would be zero fun to deal with daily for most and the new trucks are less likely to kill you in a wreck.

    • 0 avatar

      ” Nissan hardbody” I want to put a ‘small’ truck in my daughter’s garage in El Paso, TX, where my wife and I hang out when we are in the US, but haven’t found anything worth liking.

      Been looking around at all brands in the El Paso, TX/Las Cruces, NM area and Ace-of-Base trucks are few and far between.

      I did find several 2019 Nissan Frontier S trucks, King Cab 2WD V6 Automatic, that came in at under $20K, and I can get an additional $500 military discount.

      One good thing: it’s Made in the US of A.

      And so far the lowest cost I could find for a vehicle that will be used only occasionally.

      I did hear on Bloomberg today that Nissan is re-thinking its US sales strategy, closing several distributors and firing 15,000 employees.

    • 0 avatar

      You need to drive one.

  • avatar

    Remember when Ford said the Ranger was not necessary because it’s so big and people will just buy an F-150?

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