The Brands That Need Small Trucks

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Outside of the Bronco, Ford’s Maverick has gotten a lot of attention recently. And Hyundai’s Santa Cruz is upcoming — media drives are set for August.

This got me thinking — if we’re on the cusp of a return to truly “compact” trucks (well, relatively compact), which other brands should be getting in on the action, and soon?

There’s not much more preamble needed — the premise here is obvious. So let’s dive in, shall we?

  • Ram: This is the most obvious choice. Shall the Dakota return as a Maverick fighter? One can only hope. The rumor mill is mixed on this one — Car and Driver reported the return of the Dakota as a given early last year, but Motor1 reported in February that the project is now dead. That doesn’t mean C/D was peddling “fake news” — it’s possible the project was a go when the boys in Ann Arbor wrote it up and the kibosh came later. Nonetheless, Ram would seem an obvious choice for a true compact. The brand doesn’t even have a mid-size at the moment, though. So maybe Ram needs two models here — a Dakota as either the compact or mid-size, and a new nameplate filling the other gap.
  • Volkswagen: VW isn’t a logical target for a small truck in the U.S. market, but it has shown prototypes of the Tanoak and Tarok and has offered the Ranger-based Amarok in other markets. Could it finally build a Tanoak or Tarok?
  • Kia: Only because if Hyundai is doing it, it would be easy for the brand to borrow from its corporate sibling. How about the Kia San Jose?
  • Subaru: Bring back the Baja! Enough said.
  • Chevrolet/GMC: Leave it to GM to bring back the Syclone name, but on a mainstream compact pickup as opposed to a high-performance street machine. Given how the Malibu and Impala names most recently adorned boring mainstream sedans, with nary an SS to be found, I’d bet my meager savings on this.
  • Porsche: Just checking to see if you’re still reading. Though I wouldn’t put it past them.
  • Land Rover: Imagine a small truck that borrows styling and the base engine from the Defender and costs $49,995 at base and $85K well-equipped. I bet you JLR execs already are. Hey, celebs would totally buy that thing.
  • Mercedes-Benz: Don’t laugh, the brand has the X-Class elsewhere.
  • Nissan: A return to the roots with a sub-Frontier-sized pick ’em up?
  • Toyota: A truck tinier than Tacoma with Toyota badging and reliability could be a hot seller.
  • Honda: The Ridgeline is so damn good. A smaller Ridgeline could be fantastic.

Obviously, not all of these hypothetical trucks are likely to ever see the light of day. I’d put money on any OEM that has existing product — or even concepts — but not much. Automakers tend to be risk-averse these days, given how much a new-car design and launch costs. That said, if the Maverick and Santa Cruz set dealerships on fire, it wouldn’t be surprising to see other automakers scramble to follow suit.

[Image: Hyundai]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for, CarFax,, High Gear Media, Torque News,,, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as,, and He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 46 comments
  • Aparsonson Aparsonson on Jul 05, 2021

    Its curious as to why Toyota dont sell the Hilux in the US market. In other markets it's available as a long and short bed single cab or as a double cab. Fiat sell the L200 based Fullback in other parts of the world and Mazda sell the Ranger based BT-50. In the rest of the world the Ranger is considered really big. Until a few years ago Ford sold a Fiesta based small pickup called the Bantam in South Africa that was rated to carry 1100 pounds in the bed. The Hilux, Ranger, BT-50, Fullback and L200 are all made to take 2000 pound loads. It seems like trucks such as the Tacoma cant haul as much weight as the Hilux even though it's a full size vs a midsize truck.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jul 06, 2021

    There are no small trucks, your choices are "huge" or "gigantic". Would you like to super size your pickup today?

  • Tassos Jong-iL Is that Prince Harry? I have not seen him and Meagan for a long time, I hope my Dear friends are well.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I would like to wish a good morning to TTAC. There has been much arguments and fighting here, and we hope today will be more peaceful.
  • Lachlan Anyone remember what happened the last time a senator named Hawley pushed a big tariff?
  • Craiger I love the people who call Musk an imbecile. As if they could even get an interview for a job at one of his companies.
  • Lou_BC I'm waiting for Tesla to make a pickup!