By on April 23, 2019

2019 Ford Ranger front quarter

You know you’re getting old when you start using phrases like “back in my day” on the regular. Indeed, as I’m rounding my fortieth lap of the sun, I find myself reminiscing entirely too much. And, considering this tidy second career I’ve picked out, it’s not surprising that my daydreams revert all too often to vehicles of my youth.

Back in my day (there it is) compact pickup trucks were everywhere. Every mainstream automaker had one – occasionally, it was a rebadged import, but it was an important segment in which to compete. The Ranger was just another player in a crowded marketplace.

These days, the compact pickup doesn’t exist in North America. The midsize truck is the new hotness, but even this segment is relatively immature. Ford looked at its overseas portfolio and saw a model that could readily be adapted – thus, the 2019 Ford Ranger seen here. Is the Ranger competitive with the stalwarts, or is it a matter of too midsize, too late?

(Read More…)

By on April 4, 2019

As both Ford and General Motors have moved to annoying quarterly sales reporting, we’re getting into this whole “quarter” thing. Against our will, mind you, but that’s enough bitching for now.

We told you earlier how Ford’s looking smug as GM and Fiat Chrysler duke it out for second place in the full-size pickup segment (FCA’s winning), but what does the overall health of the truck market look like? As it turns out, it would look a lot worse without a new addition that showed up, fashionably late, in January. (Read More…)

By on February 8, 2019

Ram 1500 MultiFunction Tailgate

Between last month’s Detroit show and the ongoing Chicago vehicle extravaganza, pickups trucks currently occupy about 93.7 percent of the average American’s mind. While your author can easily visualize himself in a 2020 Subaru Legacy, that AWD sedan is certainly not the buzz generator in anyone’s social circle.

Mike Manley knows trucks, as his company owes its profitability to the vehicle type. Speaking this week during a fourth-quarter earnings call, the Fiat Chrysler CEO said his team learned its lesson on how to launch the things, with the botched roll-out of the 2019 Ram 1500 providing a valuable lesson on what not to do with the 2019 Ram HD.

Manley had plenty to say about those lessons, as well as the upcoming Jeep Gladiator and a yet-unrealized vehicle he’s pushing to build. (Read More…)

By on January 31, 2019

Image: Ford

Early demand and the promise of more eager customers flooding dealers has Ford ratcheting up production of its new midsize Ranger pickup. Starting in February (probably next week), the company’s Wayne Assembly plant will put the pedal down.

Kumar Galhotra, head of Ford’s North American operations, says the automaker anticipates “massive overtime.” (Read More…)

By on November 20, 2018

2018 chevrolet colorado red - Image: Chevrolet

Advice time. My friend wants (though she might say “needs”) a truck, and the choice is narrowed down to two prospects, each competing for midsize pickup supremacy.

Can you help her make a decision? (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2018

2019 Ford Ranger at MAP - Image: FordJust ahead of the launch of a new Ford Ranger, production of which began earlier this month, midsize trucks’ share of the overall U.S. pickup truck market is up to a respectable nine-year high.

Thanks to significant year-over-year improvements from the two top sellers in the segment plus meaningful increases from the third and fourth-ranked midsize pickups, category-wide volume has grown by more than 60,000 units during the first nine months of 2018. Compared with the same period in 2017, volume in the much larger full-size pickup truck segment hasn’t even grown by half that much.

If you’re a pickup truck buyer, you remain far more likely to acquire a full-size F-150, Silverado, Ram, Sierra, Tundra, or Titan than a Tacoma, Colorado, Frontier, Canyon, or Ridgeline. But the slice of the pie afforded to the five-strong midsize sector is above 18 percent for the first time since 2009.

Could the new Ford Ranger push midsize trucks over the one-fifth mark for the first time since 2006? (Read More…)

By on September 17, 2018

Tacoma TRD Teaser CAS 2018

We’ve known since June that Fiat-Chrysler plans to re-enter a segment it abandoned at the dawn of the decade — in the U.S., anyway. A midsize pickup bearing the Ram logo will appear in 2020, a report claimed earlier today, joining what will by then be a stable made up of six brands. Ford makes a triumphant return to the segment this fall.

Luckily for Ram fans, it appears the forthcoming Ram truck won’t be some wimpy, unibody thing built on a Fiat platform, as Americans would like see such a creature as being worthy of contempt, and perhaps even ritualistic sacrifice. Still, a lot can happen in two years’ time. Analysts expect the auto market to cool off in the coming years, more so than the plateau we’ve been at for the past two. (Read More…)

By on September 17, 2018

Image: RL GNZLZ/Flickr

If true, it’s news that should bring a smile to a certain American president’s face. Fiat Chrysler’s Toledo Assembly Complex, home to the current Jeep Wrangler JL and its upcoming long-wheelbase pickup variant, will become the assembly site of a new, midsize Ram pickup, a report claims.

The new Ram model, which apparently eschews unibody construction in favor of rugged (and traditional) body-on-frame architecture, doesn’t have a name, but at least it now has a tentative home. (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 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 November 6, 2017

2017 Ford Ranger, Image: Ford Europe

Don’t worry, they aren’t suffering. As shown by the rise of pickup trucks as daily drivers and family haulers in North America, Europe’s burgeoning love affair with versatile light trucks isn’t hurting the owners. It’s traditional passengers car makers who must worry.

Sales stats arriving from the Continent show a marketplace that’s increasingly different from years gone by. The increasing popularity of SUVs and crossovers in the land of diesels, manual transmissions, and small displacements is nothing new, but the exploding popularity of honest-to-God pickups is. (Read More…)

By on November 6, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Silverado Centennial Edition

So diverse are the trim levels available in a modern pickup truck, it wouldn’t be shocking to see automakers begin offering a “Scotsman” edition, complete with three-on-the-tree shifter, for buyers accustomed to eating beans out of a can. On the other end of the ladder, surely “Limited,” “Platinum,” and “Tungsten” fall short in the luxury trappings offered within their leather-trimmed cabins. Buyers clearly need a wood-panelled humidor for their stogies.

Suffice it to say that automakers are making the purchase of a pickup truck more appealing than ever, and in October, buyers did their duty. October 2017 was a boffo month for light truck sales, with every full-size truck line recording rising year-over-year sales in the United States. Unfortunately, but not all that unfortunately (according to accountants, anyway), buyers offered a raised middle finger to mid-size pickups sold by those same automakers. (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2017

2017 Nissan Frontier King Cab - Image: NissanNoteworthy year-over-year sales declines were reported in August 2017 by the three lowest-volume members of America’s five-strong midsize pickup truck category. As a result, U.S. sales of midsize pickups tumbled 8 percent last month, driving their share of the overall pickup truck category down from 18 percent in August 2016 to 16 percent in August 2017.

The Honda Ridgeline, America’s lowest-volume pickup truck in each of the last two months, reported a 24-percent drop to 2,610 units. For the 2018 model year, Honda will make the all-wheel-drive Ridgeline distinctly less affordable. The GMC Canyon, which persistently and predictably generates far less showroom traffic than its Chevrolet Colorado twin, tumbled by a fifth to 2,698 sales. And the Nissan Frontier, which last year reported its best calendar year results in 15 years, continued its 2017 tumble with a 51-percent plunge to only 4,637 units, its lowest-volume month since January.

But those are low-volume midsize trucks, scarcely relevant in the overall pickup truck scheme. Total pickup truck volume rose 4 percent in August because full-size trucks jumped 6 percent, thanks mainly to the best-selling vehicle line in America: Ford’s F-Series. (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Silverado - Image: ChevroletAmerica’s auto industry is expected to report today its seventh consecutive month of decline, a drop of at least 5 percent based on forecasts and some sharp declines from three of the largest manufacturers: GM, Ford, and FCA.

Incidentally, GM, Ford, and FCA are America’s three biggest sellers of pickup trucks, and for the most part, pickup trucks are allowing a degree of buoyancy at the Detroit Three despite plunging passenger car sales. But after pickup truck sales rose 4 percent through the first-half of 2017, pickup truck sales declined in July 2017. Slightly. Somewhat.

And it was mostly General Motors’ fault. (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2017

Mercedes-Benz X-Class Nissan Navara - Images: Mercedes-Benz & NissanAustralia’s pickup truck markets wants to know: is the Mercedes-Benz X-Class more than just a badge-engineered Nissan Navara?

“This is hardly a double badge,” Mercedes-Benz Vans’ global boss Volker Mornhinweg told Motoring.

But there’s a tendency to see matters another way. The production X-Class, not yet bound for North America’s nonexistent premium midsize pickup truck market, isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the X-Class Concept shown in late 2016.

Moreover, that X-Class gear lever looks downright familiar to Navara drivers. (Read More…)

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