Our last two Buy/Drive/Burn entries reflected compact truck offerings in 1972 and 1982. We know you all love talkin’ trucks, so we bring you a subsequent entry in the series today. It’s 1992, and you’ve got to buy a compact Japanese truck.
Hope you can bear the 10-percent interest rate on your loan.
In the last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn we pitted three compact pickup trucks from Japan against one another. The year was 1972 — still fairly early in Japan’s truck presence on North American shores. The distant year caused many commenters to shout “We are young!” and then claim a lack of familiarity.
Fine! Today we’ll move it forward a decade, and talk trucks in 1982.
Buy/Drive/Burn doesn’t talk trucks very often, but today’s an exception. Today’s trio are from the very inception of Japanese compact truck offerings in North America. They mostly rusted away long ago, but perhaps you remember them fondly.
Right now, it’s 1972. Let’s go.
The small car-based truck market was an interesting place in the early 1980s. Chevrolet had a hit on its hands with the El Camino, and it caught other manufacturers empty handed. By then, Ford had lost its LTD-based Ranchero pickup, and in its grief turned to a short-lived experiment called the Durango, based on the Fairmont Futura.
Dodge tried this one. The Rampage.
Hyundai intends to launch a small pickup truck in the United States as part of its plan to catch up with the industry’s shift away from sedans. Up until now, that strategy has involved cramming as many SUVs onto the market as possible. But Hyundai brand sales are still dragging behind 2016’s monthly averages in the U.S., with end-of-year estimates falling short of company goals.
The solution is to keep pushing the Tucson, start deliveries on the Kona mini SUV before 2018, and begin development of a pickup truck based on the Santa Cruz concept from 2015 (seen above). Hyundai is also rumored to be planning on adding three additional sport utility vehicles or crossovers to its North American lineup by 2020 — helping it shore up waning sedan and hatchback sales.
Here’s a quick thought experiment: Can someone be considered a car collector if their collection includes just one car? Certainly, if you owned only the Mona Lisa, that would be sufficient art to justify building a museum. So, it follows that if Peter Mullin decided to downsize and sell everything but his signature blue 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, one could still call him a collector.
Not convinced? Imagine this theoretical one-car collection survives the next 100 years. The tourists of 2117 will be unaccustomed to human drive and a gasoline-powered car from the 20th century, even if this “museum” is really just your “garage.” A century from now, a late-model automobile from the 1900s will appear ancient and obsolete — a lurching dinosaur — which is why my pick for a one-car collection already looks much like that: a Citroën 2CV Camionette.
Five members strong, America’s midsize pickup truck sector reported nearly 450,000 sales in 2016.
After claiming only 11 percent of the overall pickup truck market’s volume in 2013 and 2014 and 14 percent in 2015, 17 percent of all pickup truck sales in 2016 were produced by the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon, and Honda Ridgeline.
Midsize pickup truck sales growth wildly outperformed the overall auto industry in 2016, leaping forward nine times faster than the full-size truck sector, year-over-year.
Every candidate got in on the action, but one truck in particular did more than its fair share of the heavy lifting.
Two years have passed since Hyundai dropped the Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept at 2015’s North American International Auto Show.
A small, stylish, affordable, diesel-powered trucklet? Give’er the green light, the internet says.
Hyundai has consistently supplied plenty of information in the 24 months since the truck’s debut to stoke Santa Cruz-oriented hype. “There is a very high probability we get the approval of the truck soon,” now-departed Hyundai USA boss Dave Zuchowski said 20 months ago.
Soon? Clearly not.
Acknowledging Hyundai is “working as hard as we can to make it happen,” Hyundai’s vice president of corporate and product planning, Mike O’Brien, told Car And Driver that Hyundai is still not entirely certain the Santa Cruz is bound for production.
Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski is making a name for himself as a worthy successor to the frank-talking John Krafcik. Not hiding behind PR caution or fear of tipping off competitors, Zuchowski told Wards Auto that Hyundai is getting ever closer to a decision on the Santa Cruz.
“It’s definitely making progress,” Zuchowski told Wards in an otherwise crossover-centric interview. Introduced as a small pickup truck concept at 2015’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Hyundai Santa Cruz whetted the appetite of a surging non-full-size pickup truck market. The green light the Santa Cruz has been waiting for, however, is not yet shining bright. Not quite yet.
The recent introduction of a thoroughly re-engineered Toyota Tacoma is propelling sales of the segment’s top seller to all-time highs. After an elongated hiatus, there are new options from General Motors, and they’re selling more frequently than GM anticipated. Just last month, Honda began selling an all new, second-generation Ridgeline, a pickup at the opposite end of the spectrum from the rough and tumble Frontier. That Ridgeline, we told you yesterday, is selling like it’s 2008.
Moreover, demand for small/midsize pickup trucks is roughly 30-percent smaller than it was a decade ago.
At Nissan, there are plenty of factors, internal and external, working against the Frontier. The current-generation pickup is more than a decade old. Yet Nissan USA is on track to sell more Frontiers in 2016 than at any point since the current truck debuted on the Titan’s F-Alpha platform in January 2004 at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.
Competition improves the breed?
In order to tighten its grasp on the American midsize truck market, the Toyota Tacoma was thoroughly refreshed for model year 2016, a necessary development following the arrival – finally – of all-new competition at the end of 2014.
Evidently, Toyota did not need to debut an all-new pickup truck in order to fend off new General Motors challengers and keep its hold on a segment Toyota has led since 2005.
Want proof? Nearly half the non-full-size pickup trucks sold in the United States in the first two months of 2016 were Toyotas.
What if an automobile manufacturer could develop a new product, bring it to market, never substantially update the product, and continue to sell that product at a similar pace year after year? That would be impressive. But Ford could not manage to execute that four-pronged action with the Ranger.
Yes, Ford originally developed a Ranger, brought the Ranger to the North American market, and didn’t bother to truly update the Ranger. The consistent sales pace aspect? Nope, didn’t happen.
U.S. Ranger sales declined in 11 consecutive years at the end of its tenure, from 2000 to 2010. The 28-percent year-over-year increase to 70,832 units in 2011 occurred as Ford cleared out the final Rangers at ridiculously low prices and buyers of small trucks who wanted a genuinely small truck picked up the Rangers that remained.
In a sense, the debut of the Santa Cruz Concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this past January was surprising because of its level of production readiness and execution. On the other hand, to those who were aware Hyundai had for years been contemplating the idea of a pickup truck, the Santa Cruz wasn’t a shock at all.
Now, with word that Hyundai is likely to soon green-light production, the case for marketplace success is quickly called up for debate. Even with the arrival of new midsize pickup trucks from General Motors, the non-full-size pickup truck market remains relatively small at just 15% of the overall pickup truck category and 2.2% of the overall industry’s volume through the first four months of 2015.
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