Honda Truly Believes Sales Of The Facelifted 2021 Honda Ridgeline Will Jump More Than 50 Percent
In 2006, the first-generation Honda Ridgeline’s first full model year, Americans acquired 50,193 Ridgelines.
Honda believes 2021’s refreshed Ridgeline will mark a return to those glory days.
The first Ridgeline’s tenure was marked by an impressive beginning, albeit impressive only by the most modest of standards. But that Ridgeline’s performance in the U.S. marketplace rapidly grew worse as sales fell consecutively in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011; sliding 81 percent over the course of a half-decade.
Honda’s second kick at the can in 2016 (for the 2017 model year) resulted in a much better pickup, but still a pickup most buyers won’t consider. Almost completely on the basis of new front-end styling, with no engineering changes to speak of, Honda believes that the second-generation Ridgeline will enter its fifth model year and turn from being a truck that produces roughly 33,000 sales per year into a truck that attracts 50,000 buyers per year.
And Honda actually means it.
The second-generation Honda Ridgeline is, like the first, a remarkably uncommon truck. 1.1 percent of the pickups sold during the first three-quarters of 2020 were Ridgelines, 5.4 percent of midsize pickups were Ridgelines, and only 2.6 percent of the Hondas sold in America are Ridgelines. For every Ridgeline sold, Toyota sells seven Tacomas. For every Ridgeline sold, there are 73 new full-size trucks registered. For perspective, the Ridgeline sells roughly as well as the Chevrolet Spark and Volvo XC90, about half as frequently as the Kia Telluride, and about twice as frequently as the Infiniti QX80.
It’s uncommon, but not invisible.
The Ridgeline has nevertheless proven to be a consistent performer – a consistently underwhelming performer, mind you, but definitely consistent. Even in 2020’s troubled times, through only nine months of the year, Honda has already sold more Ridgelines in America than during any full calendar year between 2009 and 2015. In each of the second-gen Ridgeline’s three full years so far, Honda has sold more than 30,000 but fewer than 35,000 trucks.
Against that backdrop, Honda is forecasting a different result for the all-new…
No, scratch that.
Against that backdrop, Honda believes the third-generation…
No, that doesn’t work.
Against that backdrop, Honda expects the completely re-engineered…
Ugh, that’s not true, either.
Against that backdrop, Honda believes the facelifted Ridgeline – the refreshed Ridgeline, if we’re being generous – will suddenly become a truck capable of selling nearly 4,200 copies per month. 50,000 per annum. Fifty-two percent more than the pre-facelifted second-gen Ridgeline has managed.
Honda’s belief in the Ridgeline’s new look was first reported in Automotive News. To be honest, such a noteworthy increase in a sales forecast for a model entering its fifth year seemed far-fetched, so we reached out to Honda for confirmation. Honda marketing VP Jay Joseph, Automotive News reported, says Honda, “is targeting Ridgeline sales to grow from about 35,000 per year to 50,000 based on the redesign and marketing.”
For real? “I can confirm the comment Jay said,” Honda spokesperson Natalie Kumaratne tells TTAC.
Kumaratne cited the new look as justification for the elevated forecast, in keeping with Joseph’s earlier comments. But to be fair, there is more to it than that.
“The truck market has been growing,” Kumaratne says, “so there is consumer demand for trucks.”
Indeed, pickup-truck market share is growing, from 18.6 percent in the third quarter of 2019 to 20.1 percent in the third quarter of 2020.
Kumaratne also confirmed that “there is a marketing campaign behind the new model.” Indeed, Honda is already delving into that more rugged marketing message with the voice of John Cena. Honda hasn’t historically been all that noisy when it comes to its low-volume truck.
Yet at the core, rising pickup truck market share and a marketing campaign can only go so far for such an unpopular pickup. Honda’s message is quite clear: “We anticipate the styling looking more rugged to help sell more Ridgelines,” Kumaratne says.
As an owner of a 2019 Ridgeline, I’ll be quick to say that I’d rather my white Ridgeline look like the 2021 Ridgeline. (I’d skip the gold wheels and ask for better bumper cut-outs for the exhaust.) Whether you like the brow over the 2021 Ridgeline’s grille or the extension of body color on the fascia, most observers must surely agree that the second-gen Ridgeline has always deserved a more squared-off face. Now, for 2021, the Ridgeline has that face, in addition to bigger infotainment icons, a volume knob, new seat stitching, and, well, that’s about it.
Is that the stuff of which 50-percent sales improvements are made? That’s seriously all it takes, and Honda waited until MY2021 to execute? New grille, LED bulbs, no alterations to the underpinnings or interior design – bang bam boom, let’s call it a night?
I’m convinced the second-generation Honda Ridgeline is the right truck for my family. But I’m equally convinced that no matter how effective the Ridgeline would be for the overwhelming majority of truck owners, the market has spoken, and the market has determined that this is not the right truck for the overwhelming majority of truck buyers.
Do Honda’s lofty goals for the refreshed Ridgeline hinge on something else entirely, something like movement in the price point? Honda is not yet ready to answer that question.
Correction notice: We initially listed the Honda spokesperson’s first name as Natalia. It’s Natalie. We regret the error.
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Driving.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.
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I have my eye on a new Ridgeline and the refresh was a nice surprise. The problem with all the other trucks is that we plan to have 2 vehicles in retirement including a Miata RF and a SUV/Truck so comfort and ride is critical. No way is my wife going to be happy in anything less Accord like. Also, the Mattel toy like quality and fit and finish of ALL the others is offensive to my sensibilities. And yes, motorcycles and Home Depot Costco runs is what we need it for. Many of the Q7 and luxury Euro SUV drivers simply cant accept the crappy plastics and design that are todays choices. Hopefully to meet the sales goals Honda will have some real incentives...or so much excess inventory this cash buyer can name his price...we'll see.
I've owned midsize or mini trucks and honestly never felt emasculated. The argument is no different than compact vs midsize cars, or say Corolla vs Camry. How about this is America? Plus the backseat of either of those cars are used as often as pickups doing actual work-work, at or near their max rating. That goes for smaller than 1/2 tons too. Actually the smaller the pickup, the less likely it'll do any kind of (real) work. Especially the newer you go. Except it's an A-hole observation. A pickup bed (and backseat) can be filled to max capacity and not show cargo above the rails. Nor be hauling round trip. Even semi/commercial trucks are empty or bobtailing most of their miles. I generally carry very heavy (expensive) tools/equipment in my F-150, so I'm happy every butt hole sees a pretty and shiny but looks empty truck. You have to look closely, but still may not see all the hell I've put it through. You can't beat the value proposition of 1/2 tons (except Titan/Tundra) compared to smaller pickups. The smaller pickups I've owned were bought used, where things start to even out. If you're really constrained on space to park, I understand. From my observation, most Americans could never fathom owning anything fullsize. Midsize pickps are "pushing it" and gets lots of complaints of "un-parkable". Otherwise, 1/2 tons are just more likeable, if that's OK??? Generally you're only talking about 6 inches bigger in all directions, vs midsize. Big whoop right? That's all it takes to be emasculated or "masculated"? "Irregardless" I know I don't mind my custom and carpeted, bar height, 14" wide, 32" long, work/computer/breakfast/dinner table and sub-box combo, between the front seats (column shifter). For some things, life's too short for compromise. You pick what it is... Most of us would consider 1/2 tons "midsize" having owned 1-ton duallys or been around them enough, and showing lots of restraint and practicality/compromise when purchasing, vs anything bigger than 1/2 tons.