Buy/Drive/Burn: Japanese Pickup Truck Impostors From 2008
Buy/Drive/Burn has focused solely on Japanese trucks lately, and thus far covered the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties. Today we turn to the new century and take a look at three midsize Japanese pickups. They have something in common: All them are pretending to be a different brand than they actually are.
Badge games, activate!
The Isuzu is a Chevrolet in disguise. Isuzu had a history of using Chevrolet’s smaller truck as its own, as through 2000 it sold the S-10 rebadge known as Hombre. For the Colorado, Isuzu assisted GM with development of its new pickup. Chevrolet debuted the new Colorado in 2004, and the new i-Series went on sale for the 2006 model year. Available were the i-290 with a 2.9-liter inline-four, or the upmarket i-370, which used a 3.7-liter inline-five. Four-cylinder models were available only as extended cab, while five cylinders were found in the extended cab and crew cab. Transmissions included a four-speed auto or five-speed manual. A very poor seller, Isuzu was done marketing vehicles in the U.S. as 2008 drew to a close, and the i-Series was cancelled.
This Mitsubishi is a Dodge through and through. Since the first Raider was a Dodge sourced from Mitsubishi, someone thought it would be funny if the second Raider was a Mitsubishi sourced from Dodge. Mitsubishi was without a pickup truck in the U.S. since 1996, and regulation meant its international trucks were subject to the chicken tax.
When the new Dakota debuted for the 2005 model year, the Raider followed as an ’06 model. Raiders had a two-step production process: They were first built in Warren, Michigan alongside the Dakota, and then sent to the DSM factory in Normal, Illinois where Mitsubishi-specific parts were attached with care. Extended cab and crew cabs were on offer, as were two different engines from the Grand Cherokee: a 3.7-liter V6 and a 4.7-liter V8. Sales were very poor, and the V8 option went away after 2007. Raider continued on through the 2009 model year, and was not replaced.
Today’s Suzuki is a Nissan that put on a mustache. Suzuki had never sold a pickup in North America before, so it looked to a new Frontier. Based on the D40 Frontier that went on sale in 2004, the Equator hit Suzuki lots in 2008 as a 2009 model. U.S. customers chose from extended cab or crew cab varieties, while Canadians chose only from a single trim of the crew cab. Extended cab versions carried an optional 2.5-liter inline-four from Nissan or the venerable and thirsty VQ40 4.0-liter V6. The V6 came standard on crew cab trucks. Transmissions had five speeds, whether they were manual or automatic. Another slow seller, the Equator lasted only through 2010 in Canada, and 2012 in the U.S. Suzuki did not replace the Equator, withdrew from the U.S. during 2012, and Canada in 2014.
Three dead trucks from two dead brands (and one hanging by a thread). Which one’s worth a Buy in 2008?
[Images: Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Isuzu]
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Buy the Frontier. Deal with paying for a bit of extra gas for the VQ40. Drive the Colorado. Five-cylinder engine noise is cool. Burn the Dakota. Burn every 4.7 engine polluting the earth, anywhere.
Suzuki and Isuzu are actively manufacturing and selling passenger vehicles. Just not here in USA/Canada. Mitsubishi builds and sells the L200 / Triton pickup. Just not here in USA/Canada. All three brands are too small to survive on their own if you believe automotive experts. The only way to obtain scale for the vehicles they do make is to sell them under the umbrella of a larger brand partner. Mitsubishi shows no evidence of benefit from it's alliance. Time for GM, FCA, and Ford to go shopping.....