By on August 7, 2018

VW

The introduction of Volkswagen’s well fleshed-out Tanoak concept at this spring’s New York Auto Show showed just how versatile the company sees its Atlas midsize crossover. Sporting a reasonably useable bed and a design that’s more butch than that of Honda’s unibody Ridgeline, the Tanoak was made to tease.

Would Americans gravitate towards it? Could VW add a full-on truck to its lineup, bolstering its SUV push? These are the questions VW wanted answered before committing extra dollars and Chattanooga assembly plant space to the project.

Apparently, the Tanoak’s still in the running. (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2018

Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn trio was generated by an interesting conversation last week over in TTAC’s Slack room. The recent resurgence in midsize truck offerings has presented buyers with much more choice than just a handful of years ago. Should buyers pursue surety in resale value, comfort, and the newest design? Is it possible not to buy too much truck?

Maybe burning some trucks to the ground will help us answer these questions.

(Read More…)

By on June 1, 2018

2003 Dodge Dakota 5.9 R/T, Image: Chrysler

Years of on-again, off-again rumors about the addition of a baby Ram truck to Fiat Chrysler’s product line has led us to this day. While the automaker’s Capital Markets Day presentation in Italy focused primarily on Jeep and the two Italian luxury divisions — three of the four global brands highlighted in its five-year plan — Ram sees new product, too, including a midsize truck.

CEO Sergio Marchionne wants its core brands spread as far and wide as possible, and that means occupying new segments. For Ram, this means the large off-road truck niche and the growing midsize market. “We’re working on it,” is what Marchionne said two years ago after being asked about a midsize Ram.

FCA had kiboshed the idea in 2015, claiming that developing a new midsize would prove too costly. And yet here we are. (Read More…)

By on April 23, 2018

2019 Ford Ranger, Image: Ford

Back in March, as Matthew Guy waxed poetic over a base, Thailand-spec Ford Ranger, this author felt the tell-tale signs of desire flooding his body. “Look at all that basic utility!” my salivary glands cried. Yours did too, no doubt.

Well, give up all hope of seeing a cute little one-row Ranger midsize pickup in your near future, unless you’re jetting off to start a new life in Southeast Asia. It ain’t coming. But at least we now know what is. (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2018

Hyundai santa cruz concept

Remember that Santa Cruz Concept pickup that miraculously appeared at the 2015 North American International Auto Show? Well, according to Hyundai, it’s still earmarked for future production, but the brand has really dragged its feet on its development.

Despite a warm welcome from the automotive media, the Santa Cruz hit a major speed bump when former CEO Dave Zuchowski left Hyundai Motor America. At the time, Zuchowski was pushing hard for more SUVs and especially the pickup truck, but sliding domestic deliveries forced home office to oust him from his position. Tragically, Hyundai’s preponderance of cars is probably the largest factor contributing to lackluster U.S. sales — something Dave seemed to understand.

Hyundai continued its pursuit of SUVs and crossovers without him, but the pickup was lost in the mix. Originally planned for a 2018 release, development of the Santa Cruz stagnated. Now, the automaker says it intends to get things back on track.  (Read More…)

By on March 29, 2018

VW

So, who’s excited about the mere possibility of purchasing a German pickup in the relatively near future? Let’s see a show of hands.

Volkswagen says it will build the Atlas Tanoak (pronounced “tan-oke” — unless you’re German, apparently) if the American buying public plays nice. If head office feels good vibes from the concept vehicle’s appearance at the New York International Auto Show, there’ll be a relatively butch-looking new unibody pickup tossed into the midsize market.

Will you be one of the showroom denizens kicking the tires on a Tanoak? While the production version, if built, contains plenty of unknowns — price, payload, practicality — there’s plenty to go on from Wednesday’s unveiling. Maybe a rundown of its would-be rivals is in order. (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2018

Image: VW of America

We told you the other day that Volkswagen planned to dangle a carrot in front of American consumers. Well, here it is. Like what you see? If you do, Volkswagen wants to know about it, as this Atlas Tanoak concept truck could become a reality — provided enough people feel the same as you.

Eager to gain a stronger foothold in the U.S. light truck market, VW would love to market a unibody pickup built off a lengthened version of its Atlas platform. Unlike the crossover market, however, truck buyers can be fickle. Tribal, even. Does the midsize Tanoak have what it takes to mix it up with the likes of Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, and Toyota? (Read More…)

By on February 23, 2018

Nissan Navara

The other day, we learned of Ford’s new Ranger Raptor, a machine unveiled in Thailand with only the slightest of indications it may be sold in America. To not do so would be asinine in this author’s opinion, given the F-150 Raptor’s halo and the fact that folks can stroll into a Chevy or Toyota dealer and easily pick up a Colorado ZR2 or Tacoma TRD Pro.

Adding fuel to the midsized fire are comments garnered by Motoring in Australia, alluding to Nissan’s interest in developing a Raptor fighter of its own. T’would be based on the Navara, of course, a truck not available here.

Is it time for Nissan USA to take the plunge and bring the Navara here? Or is it better off continuing to pump out examples of the proven but older-than-Methuselah midsize Frontier?

(Read More…)

By on January 22, 2018

As we’ve told you before, Mitsubishi’s acceptance into the massive Renault-Nissan fold spells new opportunities for the struggling brand. Platform and technology sharing, affordably developed new models, no further risk of bankruptcy — the future looks a lot brighter than it did just a couple of years ago.

Among those potential new products is a pickup truck — a segment Mitsu’s courted in the past, with varying degrees of success. Apparently, the brand’s urge to join the growing pickup field hasn’t waned, but the timeline for another new product — a downsized Outlander Sport — now appears less urgent than it once did. (Read More…)

By on January 4, 2018

2017 Volkswagen Amarok, Image: Volkswagen

Amarok. The worst sounds mystical, conjuring up images of hairy Ice Age beasts and the grizzled 24-year-old grandfathers who once hunted them. Amarok also refers to a midsize Volkswagen pickup that’s built in Argentina and sold overseas, a pickup the automaker now wants to trademark in the United States.

Is this the first step towards Volkswagen — or a partner — joining the midsize pickup fray in America, or simply a “just in case” exercise? Volkswagen’s not saying. However, looking at the overall midsize pickup segment, is there really a case to be made for a new player, especially when there’s already a Ford Ranger on the way? (Read More…)

By on December 11, 2017

2019 Ford Ranger FX4

We’ve told you already that Ford isn’t letting off-road-focused variants of the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado have all the fun when the midsized Ranger comes to market next year. The long-awaited pickup, Americanized for its 2019 model-year debut, will arrive with a brawnier FX4 model in tow.

Thanks to these spy shots, we can now take a look at a Ranger FX4 that’s not a test mule.  (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro - Image: ToyotaAs global markets greet new players such as the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and as the North American market prepares to welcome back (later rather than sooner) the Ford Ranger, midsize pickup trucks are no longer making any headway in the United States of America.

In fact, October 2017 sales of five midsize pickup trucks (Tacoma, Colorado, Frontier, Ridgeline, Canyon) declined 4 percent. Given the rapid growth rate of full-size pickup trucks — six nameplates jumped 10 percent in October, year-over-year — it’s not surprising to see midsize truck market share fall. Through the first ten months of 2017, midsize trucks own 16 percent of America’s pickup truck market, down from 17 percent in 2016.

And in October, the midsize category’s share of America’s truck market slid to 15 percent. Is this what Ranger, Raider, Equator, Dakota, and B-Series dreams are made of? (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro - Image: Toyota

The only thing better than two plants producing North America’s hottest-selling midsize pickup is three plants churning them out. That’s a big part of Toyota’s plan to stay ahead of General Motors and future competitors like Ford in the small yet vital segment.

Despite making every effort over the past year to build more Tacomas at its Tijuana, Mexico, and San Antonio, Texas, assembly plants, those facilities are maxed out, leading to Toyota’s August decision to punt Corolla production (initially bound for a planned Guanajuato, Mexico, plant) to a new $1.6 billion U.S. facility in the near future.

On paper, the Guanajuato plant aimed to produce 200,000 Corollas per year. Well, those plans have changed. Toyota now says it will drop its investment in the plant from $1 billion to $700 million, with production capacity dropping by half. That still means 100,000 extra Tacomas for a hungry customer base. (Read More…)

By on September 7, 2017

Ford Ranger Raptor, Image: Ford Australia/YouTube

Not quite a month ago, we brought you spy photos of a heavily camouflaged, clearly brawnier variant of Ford’s overseas Ranger. So angry was an Australian engineer along for the ride that he challenged the photographer to a fight.

Now, thanks to Ford’s Australian and South African divisions, we can see what the engineer (and some suspect underbody netting) was attempting to hide: a Ford Ranger Raptor.

You’ll recall that Ford plans to bring the Ranger to American buyers — and production to Michigan — for the 2019 model year. It now looks like the off-road-ready Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro will soon have a Blue Oval rival, as overseas customers receive the Ranger Raptor for the 2018 model year. (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2017

IIHS small truck overlap crash test

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently ran eight pickups through the small overlap front crash test, which replicates one of the most infamous and deadly of accident types — one where the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object. The segment, which the IIHS called “small pickups,” could easily be categorized as midsize. But, with no smaller options currently available in the domestic market, their terminology works well enough.

So, how did the smaller pickups stack up when hurled toward a concrete pylon at 40 miles an hour? A little better than you might expect.

If we were absolutely forced to drive into a brick wall, we’d probably prefer to be seated in a full-size truck — specifically the Ford F-150 SuperCab. But the junior pickup group wasn’t a segment full of deathtraps. In fact, they suffered less structural deformation overall and posed less risk of injury to the lower leg region when compared to their full-size brethren. There were exceptions, however.  (Read More…)

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