One of the things this author has always appreciated about the Honda Ridgeline is its car-like qualities. More than once, the phrase “Accord on stilts” has escaped my lips when talking about the Ridgeline with fellow auto scribes, and I meant it as a compliment.
Imagine my dismay to find that the refreshed 2021 Honda Ridgeline felt jussssst a bit more “trucky” than before.
Honda is recalling nearly 789,000 vehicles over a defect that could cause the hood to fly up while driving. While anyone wanting to reenact their favorite scene from 1995’s Tommy Boy is going to be thrilled, those less eager to follow Chris Farley into an early grave will probably want to get their car repaired ahead of any hilarious mishaps.
A report filed by the manufacturer with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) listed the affected models. They include the 2019 Honda Passport, 2016-2019 Honda Pilot, and 2017-2020 Honda Ridgeline. This impacts 788,931 vehicles globally, with the vast majority (725,000) being located in the United States.
Honda’s Ridgeline pickup is a really good truck.
It also has a bias towards on-road performance, unibody construction, and a reputation for being a truck for urban and suburban use.
In other words, it’s not rugged enough, despite a recent makeover that made the styling more macho.
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.
As much as we try to cover the news without bias here at TTAC, it would untrue to say that those of us on staff don’t have certain vehicles we like more than others. Our Slack channel is often filled with discussions about how this car or that crossover is good or bad and why. We all have certain vehicles we’d put our own money down on.
Auto high beams were not the feature I thought I’d miss when our family switched from a 2018 Honda Odyssey to a 2019 Honda Ridgeline. I spent more than three decades living in urban environments. High beam use was limited to vacations or weekend getaways in country idylls.
Even after three years of rural life, auto high beams still seemed to me to be just a frivolous luxury. At least they did, until we gave them up in the switch to the Ridgeline, which isn’t the top-spec model needed to acquire the auto high beams. It was a switch that occurred during some of the longest days of the year, when there are roughly 16 hours between sunrise and sunset on Prince Edward Island.
Now the daylight hours are shrinking and I am forced to repeatedly push and pull a signal stalk forward and back with the sheer strength of an index finger, like some sort of penurious Suzuki Equator driver. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, that’s what it is. DIY high beam engagement may well be an enhanced interrogation technique, the details of which have not yet been uncovered in a David Shepardson exposé.
Fortunately, almost everything else about the 2019 Honda Ridgeline has fostered an increasingly contented ownership experience, the likes of which I’ve ever encountered in a 5,000-mile/4-month test.
1 out of every 100 pickup truck buyers in the United States chooses the Honda Ridgeline.
That sounds to me like exclusivity. That’s a strong whiff of individuality I sniff. It’s positively road-less-traveled kind of material. And I’m hopelessly drawn toward vehicles that operate way outside the mainstream.
Therefore, in the third model year of the second-generation Ridgeline’s tenure, I swapped our Honda Odyssey for a 2019 Honda Ridgeline to use as the family steed. What else are you going to buy when your vehicular wish list includes exterior and interior cargo space, four driven wheels, reasonable fuel economy, comfortable seating for five, high safety ratings, killer resale value, and a ton of standard equipment?
Wandering the 2020 Chicago Auto Show floor on the second media day, I entertained myself by playing with trucks.
More specifically, I tinkered with the trick tailgates found on GMC and Ram models, plus the in-bed cooler offered by Honda’s Ridgeline. Also springing to mind is the available roll-up tonneau cover offered by Jeep’s Gladiator, as well as that old stalwart, the RamBox.
Like most Americans, you probably didn’t emerge from last night’s slumber with thoughts of the Honda Ridgeline on your mind. Few do, though the oft-overlooked unibody Honda pickup remains a fairly consistent niche seller.
For the coming month, Honda wants to provide you, the buyer, with additional reasons to choose its offering over tried-and-true BOF competitors.
With an extra selling day compared to the March that came before it, last month saw U.S. new vehicle buyers continue doing what they’ve done for years. By that, we mean snap up trucks and SUVs like it’s going out of style. (There’s no indication it’s going out of style.)
According to figures from Autodata, truck and SUV sales rose 16.3 percent in the U.S., year over year, while traditional passenger cars continued to fade from the minds of new vehicle buyers. That segment declined 9.2 percent, year over year.
Monthly sales figures can be fickle, which is apparently the reason for General Motors’ switch to quarterly sales reports starting next month, but we prefer receiving data more often. And last month’s data paints a very different picture than February’s. Leaving SUVs aside, which pickups soared in March?
As we told you earlier this afternoon, two of the Detroit Three automakers posted significant year-over-year U.S. sales decreases last month. Ford Motor Company and General Motors both saw American sales volume sink by 6.9 percent. While passenger cars both low-end and premium can usually take the blame for any sales decrease, general wisdom says buyers will gravitate in equal numbers towards SUVs, crossovers, and trucks, cancelling out most, if not all, of the sales exodus.
This isn’t always true. In February’s case, Ford can lay some of the blame at the foot of its best-selling crossover, while GM can finger its full-size truck lineup. Ford Escape sales sank 23.9 percent in February, year over year — a loss making up roughly three-quarters of Ford’s missing vehicles. As customers await new versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, the aged models brought in fewer buyers than the same month in 2017 — 16.3 and 25.3 percent less, respectively. Like Ford, that’s roughly three-quarters of GM’s missing February volume.
A 15 percent year-over-year decline at the Ram brand — itself awaiting a new half-ton — brings home the importance of pickups in 2018.
Barring a blockbuster December, 2017’s light duty vehicle sales stand to dip below 2016’s record 17.55 million units. The National Automobile Dealers Association forecasts 17.1 million sales in the U.S. this calendar year, with 2018 sales falling to 16.7 million vehicles.
Bad news for automakers? Not if profits stay up. And nothing generates profits quite like large volumes of high-margin vehicles — pickup trucks, to be exact. While November 2017 was a relatively flat month for the industry, a closer look at the pickup segment shows America’s love affair with trucks is keeping the money taps flowing.